Archive | Latin America Mining

‘Sense of Dread’: How a Mining Disaster in Brazil Raised Alarms in Minnesota – by Alistair MacDonald, Kris Maher and Kim Mackrael (Wall Street Journal – October 14, 2019)

Mine-waste dams around the world have drawn new scrutiny after a collapse in Brazil this year killed hundreds

EMBARRASS, Minn.—An earthen dam is set to rise behind the trees of Dan Ehman’s 120 woodland acres in northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range, a region with close ties to mining for more than a century.

The planned dam, designed to hold back hundreds of millions of tons of mining waste, will be similar in structure and height—soaring 250 feet above Mr. Ehman’s century-old log cabin—to one in Brazil that burst in January, killing 270 in a tsunami of sludge.

That disaster, the deadliest of its type in half a century, has upended the global mining industry. The world’s biggest mining giants have spent months and millions of dollars re-evaluating their dams. Institutional investors are scrubbing their portfolios, looking for companies with risky structures—and helping to publicize potential stability issues. And environmentalists are getting new support from residents, some of whom are learning for the first time about the potential dangers of the dams in their communities. Continue Reading →

French government appoints new mining delegate to French Guiana – by John Williams (Global Mining Review – October 9, 2019)

Columbus Gold Corp. has announced that in September the French government appointed Didier Le Moine as the new mining delegate and coordinator of mining projects in French Guiana.

Le Moine, a mining engineer, formally held the position of Director of Industry, Mines and Energy in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, where a nickel mining industry was successfully established.

Le Moine’s new mandate is to define, coordinate and implement actions for the development of a responsible mining industry in French Guiana that is compatible with France’s ecological ambitions, is respectful of the populations and generates wealth and jobs for the territory. Continue Reading →

Workers at Fura emerald mine in Colombia labor in unsafe conditions: ex-employees – by Julia Symmes Cobb (Reuters U.S. – October 9, 2019)

COSCUEZ, Colombia (Reuters) – Workers at the Colombian emerald mine run by Canada’s Fura Gems’ – the first publicly-traded emerald miner operating in the South American nation – have been laboring in unsafe conditions and sometimes lack basic safety equipment, according to four former employees.

Fura set out early last year to revive production at the fabled, four-century-old Coscuez mine, once the Andean country’s largest producer of the gem.

The Toronto-based company promised to operate by the book in a province known for organized crime and dangerous wildcat mining but the sources – who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals – said it had been falling short. Continue Reading →

Chile’s attempts to move up the lithium value chain are not working (The Economist – October 5, 2019)

Chile’s economic boom is copper-bottomed. Since pre-colonial times people have worked the metal. Today Chile produces 28% of the world’s output. The industry accounts for almost 10% of gdp, 48% of exports and a third of foreign direct investment. Copper has helped make Chileans the richest people in South America.

Politicians, however, dream of doing more than exporting unrefined commodities. In 2016 Michelle Bachelet, then the president, announced a plan to encourage manufacturing and innovation at home through the use of another metal that Chile has in abundance: lithium.

This is used in batteries for mobile phones, laptops and electric cars. The idea was for Chile not only to mine the metal but also to make components for car batteries, the fastest-growing part of the market. Continue Reading →

ArcelorMittal said to review Canada, Brazil iron assets – by Dinesh Nair, Thomas Biesheuvel and Vinicy Chan (Bloomberg News – September 27, 2019)

ArcelorMittal is evaluating a potential sale of some of its iron ore operations, as the world’s biggest steelmaker seeks to cut debt by divesting non-core businesses, people familiar with the matter said.

The company is reviewing its iron ore assets in Canada, Brazil and Liberia, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. ArcelorMittal is speaking with financial advisers about options including selling partial or full stakes in at least some of the assets, according to the people. The Canadian business is the largest and more profitable of the three and could be valued at about US$2 billion in any transaction, the people said.

ArcelorMittal hasn’t kicked off a formal sale process, and it could decide to keep the operations, the people said. A representative for ArcelorMittal declined to comment. The shares climbed 2.1 per cent to 12.94 euros as of 9:52 a.m. in Amsterdam. Continue Reading →

Vale to restart Onça Puma nickel complex – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – September 24, 2019)

Brazil’s Vale (NYSE: VALE) has begun working on resuming operations at its $3 billion Onça Puma nickel mining complex, as the country’s Supreme Court suspended injunctions against the miner earlier this month.

Nickel mining at Onça Puma, in Brazil’s northern Pará state, has been halted since September 2017 as the company failed to undergo a requested environmental impact on local indigenous communities affected by pollution caused by the mine.

The complex, which also had to suspend nickel processing in June this year, produced a record 7,100 tonnes of nickel in the third quarter of 2017, up 29% compared with the prior three-month period and up 7.6% from the third quarter of 2016, Vale said at the time. Continue Reading →

Brazil to Push Forward Mining on Indigenous Land Amid Opposition – by Sabrina Valle and Luiza Ferraz (Bloomberg News – September 24, 2019)

The Brazilian government is pushing ahead with a controversial bill that allows mining activity on indigenous lands, and it won’t give local communities any veto power, a cabinet member said.

The private sector will naturally refrain from exploring in areas if indigenous groups are against it, Alexandre Vidigal, the mining secretary at the Energy Ministry, said Tuesday in an interview.

“It is obvious that if an indigenous community opposes a certain mining activity, there won’t be a entrepreneur interested in developing it,” he said on the sidelines of an event in Rio de Janeiro. He expects the government will conclude the text of the bill by the end of the month. Continue Reading →

After Dumping Vale, Church of England Says Miner Has ‘Way to Go’ – by Isis Almeida and Sabrina Valle (Bloomberg News – September 24, 2019)

The Church of England has dumped Vale SA, and it doesn’t look like the Brazilian miner will make it back into the good books any time soon.

The church sold its shares in Vale after a tailings dam collapse in January killed at least 249 people in the Brazilian town of Brumadinho. It has also blocked investments in the miner through an ethical exclusion process, according to Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement at the church’s pension board.

There’s a “long way to go” before the church is ready to backtrack, he said by phone before the Financial Times Commodities Americas Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where he is scheduled to speak. Continue Reading →

Illegally tapping French Guiana’s forest of gold – by Nick Clark (Al – September 22, 2019)

Thousands of illegal gold miners come to the abundant rainforest of French Guiana in search of a fortune, leaving a trail of environmental destruction.

I am not sure which was more terrifying – the six-metre anaconda coiled beneath the floorboards of the research station or the Eurocopter pilot’s extreme acrobatics over the dense rainforest. Two days in French Guiana and that was not the half of it.

Rainforest covers 98 percent of its territory and to enter the interior you either fly or take to the endless rivers and waterways that meander through a region of jungle the size of Ireland. From above, this carpet of biodiversity spreads in every direction as far as the eye can see, the canopy a thousand shades of green.

This is a rare commodity in Amazonia – intact rainforest. But then suddenly a great gash of brown appears where the trees have been ripped out. “Look! Look down!” Continue Reading →

Salgado’s Amazonia photos beamed on Assisi basilica to warn of threat – Antonio Denti (Reuters U.K. – September 23, 2019)

ASSISI, Italy (Reuters) – Hundreds of people braved driving rain on Sunday night to see pictures of Amazonia by famed Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado beamed onto the Basilica of St. Francis and to hear him talk of the danger facing the area.

The black-and-white photographs showed native peoples of the Amazon as sombre classical music by 20th century Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos played in what almost seemed like a requiem for the parts of the Amazon that have already been lost to deforestation and mining.

Salgado, addressing the crowd, said it was “the predatory economic model that is everywhere in the world. Our agricultural system, our industrial system, our consumption system that has caused the destruction of the Amazon”. Continue Reading →

[Trevali Mining] CEO bullish on buoying miner as zinc sinks – by Nelson Bennett (Business In Vancouver – September 18, 2019)

The stock market has not been kind of late to Trevali Mining Corp. (TSX:TV). The Vancouver-based zinc miner has doubled in size since acquiring two zinc mines from Glencore Plc in 2017, bumping it to mid-tier miner status, with a global head count of about 2,000.

It now has four operating zinc mines – one in New Brunswick, one in Peru and two in Africa (Namibia and Burkina Faso). Normally, that kind of production growth would be a good reason to hold onto a mining stock. But the company’s share price has recently fallen to below $0.20 from $1.68 at the end of January 2018.

Trevali is not the only zinc miner to experience a stock market pummelling. Glencore PLC (LON:GLEN), one of the world’s largest zinc producers, has suffered a 45% decline in share value since January 2018. Continue Reading →

‘They burned everything’: Guatemalan women press Hudbay on human rights claims in closely watched case – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – September 18, 2019)

Two indigenous Guatemalan women stood quietly in front of a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday morning, surrounded by a scrum that included a filmmaking crew, lawyers, media and a gaggle of other people.

On a crowded city street during rush hour, the women drew little notice from passersby but their case is being closely followed by the mining sector and beyond.

Both women, Irma Yolanda Choc Cac and Angelica Choc, had travelled from a remote part of eastern Guatemala, to continue pressing legal claims that Hudbay Minerals Inc., one of Canada’s oldest mining companies, bears liability for rape, violence and other human rights abuses that took place more than a decade ago when their village was razed to make way for the Fenix nickel mine. Continue Reading →

Vale misled public on dangerous dams, prompting Brazil probe: source – by Marta Nogueira, Jake Spring and Christian Plumb (Reuters Canada – September 17, 2019)

RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Faced with public outrage after its second mining dam collapse in four years killed at least 240 people in Brazil, Vale SA misrepresented what it had done to shut down its riskiest dams, a review of the company’s statements shows.

Fabio Schvartsman, Vale’s then-chief executive, said at a nationally broadcast news conference days after the dam burst in late January that the company had already decommissioned nine “upstream dams” in the wake of a 2015 disaster involving the same type of structure, and planned to dismantle 10 more over the next few years. The company repeated the claim in a statement on its website.

Reuters asked Vale for details on these moves on February 5, seven days after Schvartsman’s news conference. In March, some five weeks later, Vale gave Reuters a list of nine dams that it said it had closed since 2014, a year before the Mariana disaster. Continue Reading →

OPINION: Canadian mining companies key players in Mexico’s move to sustainable development – by Patrico Cumming and Christie Stephenson (Globe and Mail – September 16, 2019)

Patricio Cumming is a senior associate with the Mexican law firm Gonzalez Calvillo SC. Christie Stephenson is executive director of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

Mexico is undergoing a seismic political change. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office last December, promises a system that works for the many and not just the few. In this context, Canada is a crucial stakeholder. Specifically, the Canadian mining industry has the opportunity to be a key driver in achieving the sustainable development goals the Mexican government pledges.

Mining is a significant part of the Mexican economy and, according to Global Affairs Canada, roughly 70 per cent of foreign-owned mining companies operating in the country are based in Canada. Mr. Lopez Obrador has promised to scrutinize the treatment of Indigenous populations and the environmental impacts of mining.

Many investors worry that the risk of contract cancellations and project delays are higher under Mr. Lopez Obrador. However, mining companies committed to sustainability and best practices will likely thrive in this environment. Continue Reading →

Global mining panel looks to boost accountability after Brazil disaster – by Christian Plumb (Reuters U.S. – September 11, 2019)

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (Reuters) – New safety standards being drawn up by a global mining industry panel will include rules to better define management accountability after Vale SA’s (VALE3.SA) January tailings dam disaster, a top industry official said on Wednesday.

The governance standards would help ensure independent reviews of dams and adequate disclosure of risks, said Tom Butler, president of the International Council on Mining and Metals.

“The engineers know what they’re doing with these things but the implementation and the management and the change management, that all involves humans,” Butler told Reuters in an interview in Brazil. Continue Reading →