Archive | Mining Environmental Accidents, Pollution, Tailing Dams and Abandoned Mines

Indonesia’s EV battery aspirations unearth mining waste problems – by Ursula Florene ( – January 14, 2021)

By catering to the global hunger for EVs and its domestic economic growth, Indonesia risks destroying its own environment.

Indonesia is one of the world’s top producers of battery minerals and the first global producer of nickel, an essential component to produce lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. That places the country at the core of the electric vehicle (EV) revolution.

Home to 25% of the world’s nickel resources, Indonesia also has rich resources of cobalt and copper, other essential minerals for battery production. Based on its assets, the country is developing its own EV industry and has plans to become a global EV battery production hub.

Under President Joko Widodo’s administration, Indonesia is set to begin EV domestic production by 2021 or 2022 with the goal of exporting 200,000 EVs by 2025, or about 20% of the estimated total of exported cars. Continue Reading →

Cleaning up tailings standards: Why this time really is different – by Alisha Hiyate (Canadian Mining Journal – January 6, 2021)

A sustained effort needed to address tailings risks isn’t dissipating. Jan. 25 will mark two years since the Brumadinho tailings disaster in Brazil.

The tailings dam failure released 12 million cubic metres of tailings, killing 259, devastating the nearby town of Brumadinho, and polluting the Paraopeba River.

Incredibly, they’re still looking to recover the bodies of 11 presumed victims. (The search and rescue effort, interrupted by the pandemic in March 2020, resumed in August.) Continue Reading →

Child labour, toxic leaks: the price we could pay for a greener future – by Robin McKie (The Guardian – January 3, 2021)

The battle to stave off Earth’s looming climate crisis is driving engineers to develop hosts of new green technologies. Wind and solar plants are set to replace coal and gas power stations, while electric cars oust petrol and diesel vehicles from our roads. Slowly our dependance on fossil fuels is set to diminish and so ease global heating.

But scientists warn there will be an environmental price to pay for this drive to create a world powered by green technology. Prospecting for the materials to construct these devices, then mining them, could have very serious ecological consequences and major impacts on biodiversity, they say.

“The move towards net zero carbon emissions is going to create new stresses on our planet, at least in the short term,” said Prof Richard Herrington, head of earth sciences at the Natural History Museum, London. “We are going to have to learn how to consider profit and loss with regard to ecosystems just as we do now when we are considering economic issues.” Continue Reading →

Alaska demands action on B.C.’s ‘lax’ mining oversight – by Quinn Bender (Abbotsford News – January 4, 2021)


The United States government has approved US$3.6 million in spending to help Alaska pressure the B.C. government into reforming mining regulations they claim are lax and present an imminent threat to fish and habitat in transboundary watersheds.

On Dec. 21, U.S. Congress approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2021 that included US$3.1 million for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to expand a 2019 baseline water-quality monitoring program on rivers downstream from B.C. mines.

An allocation of US$500,000 was also approved to shore up involvement of the U.S. Department of State to identify gaps in a memorandum of understanding between B.C. and Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana relating to mining activity in transboundary watersheds. Continue Reading →

UK court blocks lawsuit against BHP over Brazil dam burst – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – November 9, 2020)

The High Court of Manchester, northwestern England, blocked on Monday a £5 billion ($6.6bn) lawsuit against BHP over a devastating dam collapse at an iron ore mine in Brazil in 2015, which killed 19 people and became the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history.

The suit, filed last year by 235,000 Brazilian people and groups including indigenous tribes and the Catholic Church, claims the world’s no. 1 miner was “woefully negligent” in the run-up to the Samarco dam failure.

The claimants were seeking compensation for physical and psychological injury, property damage, moving costs, loss of earnings, loss of water supply and lost fishing income. Continue Reading →

Silver particles in consumer goods found to harm fish in Ontario lake study – by Ivan Semeniuk (Globe and Mail – October 19, 2020)

Microscopic silver particles that are added as an antimicrobial agent to athletic clothing, condoms and yoga mats, among many other products, have been shown to harm fish and freshwater ecosystems when released in quantities that are similar to what is thought to be emerging from wastewater plants across Canada.

Researchers who laced a Northern Ontario lake with the material, known as nanosilver, as part of a multiyear experiment, say the adverse effects they measured in two species of fish were significant enough, both individually and at the population level, to warrant including the unregulated substance as part of Canada’s water safety guidelines for the metal.

“We found effects right down to the cellular level,” said Lauren Hayhurst, a fisheries biologist at the Experimental Lakes Area, near Kenora, Ont., where the work was conducted. Continue Reading →

‘Deal with the disaster’: the girl from Bougainville who grew up to take on a mining giant – by Leanne Jorari and Ben Doherty (The Guardian – October 16, 2020)

For all of Theonila Roka Matbob’s three decades, the scar on her land that was once the world’s largest copper mine has cast a pall.

The Panguna mine in Bougainville, eastern Papua New Guinea, has not yielded a single ounce in her lifetime – forced shut the year before Matbob was born – but she grew up in the shadow of the violent civil war it provoked.

When she was just three years old, her father, John Roka, was murdered by the secessionist soldiers who had forced the mine to close. Spending years in a “care centre” run by the PNG defence force, she remembers a childhood dominated by an all-pervasive fear, where the sound of gunshots regularly rang out across the valley, where neighbours disappeared from their homes, their bodies later found slaughtered. Continue Reading →

Goldmining having big impact on indigenous Amazon communities – by Dom Phillips (The Guardian – October 7, 2020)

A new report has exposed the scale and impact of mining on indigenous reserves in Amazon countries as gold prices soared during the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 20% of indigenous lands are overlapped by mining concessions and illegal mining, it found, covering 450,000 sq km (174,000 sq miles) – and 31% of Amazon indigenous reserves are affected.

The report, released on Wednesday by the World Resources Institute, said indigenous people should be given more legal rights to manage and use their lands, and called for better environmental safeguards. Continue Reading →

Can mineral extraction ever be environmentally acceptable? – by David Jessop (Virgin Islands Daily News – October 4, 2020)

In August, the price of gold reached a record high of $2,073 per ounce. It did so as investors concerned about the impact of COVID-19, global economic instability, and falling bond yields, decided it was a safe haven.

Coincidentally, the spike occurred as Guyana’s Stabroek News published an investigative report in collaboration with InfoAmazonia and media partners in Brazil and Venezuela which described how a significant part of the Republic’s informal gold production is trafficked abroad.

A few weeks later InfoAmazonia published a more detailed account. “Tracing Tainted Gold,” described how across the Guiana Shield, mercury trafficking networks are enabling gold produced by small miners to be laundered; how it is moving across uncontrolled borders and through the region’s ports; suggesting that it is entering legitimate global supply chains, and possibly ending up in products made by some of the world’s biggest corporations. Continue Reading →

Another smoggy Sunday in the town with factories owned by Russia’s richest man – by Thomas Nilsen (The Barents Observer – October 4, 2020)

People driving the Kola highway have seen it before. Like in late July when kilometers and kilometers of the nature west of the nickel and copper smelters were covered by smog containing sulfur dioxide and heavy metals.

A week later, the leaves on the few still-alive trees in the lunar landscape started to brown. On Sunday, October 4th, the sulfur gasses were again blowing over the Arctic landscape, a video posted by Navalny’s office in Murmansk shows.

After Nornickel closed its nickel refining factory in Norilsk a few years ago, all refining now takes place in Monchegorsk, a two hours’ drive south of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. Continue Reading →

Tesla to meet with Indigenous activists as it plots future supply chain – by Jacob Holzman (SP Global – September 30, 2020)

Tesla Inc. will meet with a network of Russian Indigenous activists campaigning for the electric vehicle company to boycott nickel supplied by PJSC Norilsk Nickel Co., the world’s largest producer of high-grade nickel, according to one of the activists involved with the campaign.

Pavel Sulyandziga, president of Indigenous rights group Batani Foundation, told S&P Global Market Intelligence through an interpreter that advocates with the boycott campaign are scheduled to speak with Tesla representatives involved with corporate social responsibility on Oct. 7.

Sulyandziga said the group plans to reiterate a request made in an open letter released in early August that Tesla not engage with Norilsk Nickel, also known as NorNickel, which is facing billions in damages over major oil spills in the Arctic. Continue Reading →

3 decommissioned uranium mines near Bancroft, Ont. deemed protected, no health impacts: study – by Greg Davis (Global News – September 29, 2020)

A study says three decommissioned uranium sites near Bancroft, Ont., are protected and pose no health impacts on residents.

In 2019 the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) launched an independent environmental monitoring program in the Bancroft area, focusing on the Dyno, Madawaska and Bicroft decommissioned uranium mine sites. Each site processed low-grad uranium ore which left behind tailings — waste generated by the mining and milling of uranium ore.

The commission is licensed to manage the three sites, which are under long-term monitoring and maintenance. The three sites were remediated in the 1980s and 1990s. Continue Reading →

Attawapiskat First Nation challenges DeBeers’ proposal for third landfill site (CBC News Sudbury – October 1, 2020)

DeBeers Canada is decommissioning the Victor Diamond Mine

Attawapiskat First Nation says it’s challenging the construction of another proposed landfill site near the community.

The site would be located about 90 kilometers west of the community and would process demolition waste from the Victor Diamond Mine, which is being decommissioned. It would be the third landfill managed by DeBeers Canada, the company that owns and operates the mine.

Attawapiskat has hired environmental consultant Don Richardson who says the 100,000 cubic metre landfill would be quite large. “The total amount of concrete of the CN Tower is probably about 45,000 cubic metres,” said Richardson. “So you could stick two CN Towers in this facility. It’s not a small landfill.” Continue Reading →

A brutal war and rivers poisoned with every rainfall: how one mine destroyed an island – by Matthew G. Allen (The Conversation – September 30, 2020)

Matthew G. Allen is a Professor of Development Studies at The University of the South Pacific.

This week, 156 people from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in Papua New Guinea, petitioned the Australian government to investigate Rio Tinto over a copper mine that devastated their homeland.

In 1988, disputes around the notorious Panguna mine sparked a lengthy civil war in Bougainville, leading to the deaths of up to 20,000 people. The war is long over and the mine has been closed for 30 years, but its brutal legacy continues.

When I conducted research in Bougainville in 2015, I estimated the deposit of the mine’s waste rock (tailings) downstream from the mine to be at least a kilometre wide at its greatest point. Local residents informed me it was tens of metres deep in places. Continue Reading →

How Nornickel Became the Arctic’s Biggest Polluter (VTimes/Moscow Times – September 28, 2020)

One Russian company releases more sulfur dioxide into the air than the whole of the U.S.

Ecologists often joke that Europe owes its clean skies to the dirty sky of Norilsk — and there’s more than a shred of truth in this assertion.

The Nornickel mining and metallurgical company supplies metals to 37 countries, where they are used in the production of electric cars, electricity stations and solar panels.

But in the process of extracting all these environmentally valuable metals, Nornickel systemically pollutes the surrounding nature with sulfur dioxide (SO2). Toxic in high doses, this gas causes choking, coughing, pulmonary edema, and (according to the WHO) increases the frequency of respiratory tract diseases. Continue Reading →