How to Fix Florida’s Phosphate Problem – by Blair Wickstrom (Florida Sportsman – September 22, 2021)

https://www.floridasportsman.com/

Dave Markett, a Tampa Bay fishing guide who regularly fishes Piney Point, told those in attendance at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 2021 Redfish Summit that, “We need to hold the people that are responsible for our water degradation accountable and that they pay a price.”

Markett went on to demand that “phosphate needs to be funding the cost of seagrass restoration,” and ended with a dire prediction: “We are one tropical storm away from a disaster of unimaginable proportions.” Agree. And agree.

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When Wall Street came to coal country: how a big-money gamble scarred Appalachia – by Evan Osnos (The Guardian – September 14, 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/

nce or twice a generation, Americans rediscover Appalachia. Sometimes, they come to it through caricature – the cartoon strip Li’l Abner or the child beauty pageant star Honey Boo Boo or, more recently, Buckwild, a reality show about West Virginia teenagers, which MTV broadcast with subtitles. Occasionally, the encounter is more compassionate.

In 1962, the social critic Michael Harrington published The Other America, which called attention to what he described as a “vicious circle of poverty” that “twists and deforms the spirit”.

Around the turn of this century, hedge funds in New York and its environs took a growing interest in coalmines. Coal never had huge appeal to Wall Street investors – mines were dirty, old-fashioned and bound up by union contracts that made them difficult to buy and sell.

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7 years later, 2 engineers face discipline for actions that led to Mt. Polley mine disaster – by Yvette Brend (CBC News British Columbia – August 11, 2021)

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/

Seven years after Canada’s largest tailings spill, the two engineers who were involved have been found in breach of their professional codes of conduct.

On Aug. 4, 2014, a four-square-kilometre tailings pond breached at Mount Polley mine in central British Columbia, leaking vast amounts of water and effluent into Polley and Quesnel lakes and Hazeltine Creek.

More than 17 million cubic metres of water and eight million cubic metres of tailings effluent — containing toxic copper and gold mining waste — flowed into lakes and streams that served as a drinking water source and sockeye salmon spawning ground in the province’s Cariboo region. The 40-metre-high tailings dam was built on a sloped glacial lake. That weakened its foundation.

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Clean tech cannot be built on dirty mining that ignores human rights and safety – by Bev Sellars (Vancouver Sun – August 4, 2021)

https://vancouversun.com/

Bev Sellars is the former chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in whose territory the Mount Polley mine is located.

For nearly 200 years, since the colonial mining free-for-all of the mid-1800s, Indigenous peoples across what is now British Columbia have watched as their rights were disrespected, their lands degraded, and their rivers and lakes poisoned by companies whose only interest was making money and then moving on.

Little has changed since then. A new mining boom fuelled by growing global demand for B.C. resources to support clean technology and backed by favourable government policy means the mining industry can continue to treat the province as a money pit with scant regard for the safety of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who live here and the environment that means so much to them.

The current B.C. government believes it has done an admirable job of tightening mining laws since it took power, and the industry says it too has improved safety and environmental performance.

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How yellowcake shaped the West by Jonathan Thompson (High Country News – July 30, 2021)

https://www.hcn.org/

The ghosts of the uranium boom continue to haunt the land, water and people.

In late August 2018, in the heat of one of the warmest and driest years on record in the Four Corners country, under a blanket of smoke emanating from wildfires burning all over the place, I piloted the Silver Bullet — my trusty 1989 Nissan Sentra — to the quiet burg of Monticello, Utah.

I was on my way from one camping site on the Great Sage Plain to another on Comb Ridge, where I would feed my misanthropic side with a searing hike down a canyon, seeking out potholes that still had a smidgen of stagnant water left over from the last rain.

I took a detour through Monticello to look into one of the most contentious fronts of the long-running public-land wars, the battle over uranium mining and milling and even radioactive waste disposal. San Juan County’s public lands played a major role in what I call the Age of the Nuclear West, which reached its multi-decade apex during the Cold War and hasn’t ended yet.

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Brazil Prosecutors Target Final Samarco Dam Settlement This Year – by Mariana Durao (Bloomberg News – July 22, 2021)

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/

(Bloomberg) — A final settlement between Brazilian authorities and the Samarco iron-ore venture can be reached this year, bringing legal certainty to owners Vale SA and BHP Group six years after a devastating tailings dam collapse.

That’s according to federal prosecutor Carlos Bruno Ferreira da Silva, who said in an interview that the final reparation value is yet to be defined and will be based on independent technical studies.

Silva, who is leading talks on behalf of prosecutors, pointed to a document signed by the parties that estimates talks to last about four months from June 22, the last four weeks of which would be focused on a final draft. Authorities and company officials have been meeting weekly.

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Investigate water pollution in B.C.’s Elk Valley, environmental groups urge federal agencies – by Xiao Xu (July 22, 2021)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Environmental groups are asking Canada’s parliamentary environment watchdog and the federal auditor-general to investigate what they say is Ottawa’s failure to apply laws and prevent serious water pollution from coal mines in British Columbia’s Elk Valley.

The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, along with Wildsight, is asking the agencies to investigate the “long-standing failure” to stop the contamination of waterways with unacceptably high levels of selenium, a decades-old problem.

Selenium is a naturally occurring element that washes out of piles of waste rock, but in concentrated levels, it moves through the food chain and can cause deformities in fish and ruin their ability to reproduce.

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Interview – CEMI CEO Doug Morrison: “The delay in getting approval for mining projects is almost all related to environmental impact” (Global Business Report/Mining.com – April 28, 2021)

https://www.mining.com/

The industry response to the Brumadinho dam disaster, including the Global Tailings Standard, will hopefully prevent such tragic events in the future. However, it is important to examine how a catastrophe of this scale, at a facility owned by one of the five biggest mining companies in the world, could reoccur after a similar failure — Samarco, in 2015.

Doug Morrison, CEO of the Centre of Excellence for Mining Innovation (CEMI), said the industry must recognize that the increasing delay in getting approval for mining projects is almost all related to environmental impact.

Moreover, the failings at Brumadinho and Samarco were the result of a flawed approach to tailings management, Morrision said in an interview with the Global Business Reports:

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Analysis: Illegal gold mining in Peru set to continue – by Ben Heubl (Engineering and Technology – July 16, 2021)

https://eandt.theiet.org/

Peruvian authorities seem powerless to stop illegal gold mining that has wreaked havoc in the country’s rainforests and is poisoning the environment with mercury. E&T’s analysis shows that the practice boomed during the pandemic.

The price of gold is sensitive to crisis, but can itself be the cause of turmoil, especially in an environmental context.

During the past year and a half of the global pandemic, the gold price reached historic heights. As a result, an artisanal gold-mining boom swept the world, notably in countries that are but resource-rich.

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Report: Appalachian states face billions in mining cleanup (Associated Press/Lexington Herald Leader – July 15, 2021)

https://www.kentucky.com/

The cleanup and reclaiming of coal mines in seven Appalachian states will cost billions, and Kentucky and West Virginia have the largest bills coming due, according to an environmental group’s new report.

Total reclamation liability for the two states is between $4.1 and $5.8 billion, with less than half of that covered by existing bonds, according to estimates in the report by Appalachian Voices.

Pennsylvania’s estimated liability is roughly identical to Kentucky’s, at $1.9 billion to $2.25 billion, although it has an advantage in that up to two-thirds of that liability is covered by bonds.

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How ‘Ecocide’ Could Become an International Crime – by Ryan Hesketh (Bloomberg News – June 25, 2021)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

From oil spills to open-pit mining, clear-cut logging to heavy-net trawling, humans continue to scar the planet despite mountains of legislation, regulation and good intent.

Some environmental lawyers want to make destruction of an ecosystem an international crime — “ecocide” — on par with genocide or war crimes. Past attempts were stymied by the challenge of defining what would constitute a crime. But amid rising concern about climate change, a new definition has been published that could make ecocide the first new crime added to international law since 1948.

1. What is ecocide?

The term was coined in 1970 by Arthur W. Galston, an American biologist. It’s derived from the Greek oikos, meaning home, and the Latin caedere, meaning to demolish or kill.

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History Of Phosphate Mining In Florida Fraught With Peril – by Steve Newborn (WUSF Public Media – June 16, 2021)

https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/

In our ongoing series on phosphate mines, WUSF reports on the long, tangled history of Florida’s phosphate mines and the environment.

At the construction entrance to the Piney Point phosphate plant – off Buckeye Road in northern Manatee County, just south of the Hillsborough County line – the smell of phosphate and gypsum hangs heavy in the air.

A bulldozer is busy pushing sand into a hole from which more than 200 million gallons of tainted water flowed into Tampa Bay. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Accidents like this fill the history books in Florida, including two here at this very site.

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After two collapses, a third Vale dam at ‘imminent risk of rupture’ – by Juliana Ennes (Mongabay.com – June 14, 2021)

https://news.mongabay.com/

A dam holding back mining waste from Brazilian miner Vale is at risk of collapsing, a government audit says.

The same company was responsible for two tailings dam collapses since 2015 that unleashed millions of gallons of toxic sludge and killed hundreds of people in Brazil’s southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

The retired Xingu dam at Vale’s Alegria iron ore mine in Mariana — the same municipality where a Vale tailings dam collapsed in November 2015 in what’s considered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster to date — is at “serious and imminent risk of rupture by liquefaction,” according to an audit report from the Minas Gerais state labor department (SRT), cited by government news agency Agência Brasil.

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Where mining meets rainforest: the battle for Tasmania’s Tarkine – by Adam Morton (The Guardian – June 5, 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/

Four days before the Morrison government was due to decide the future of a mining development in the takayna/Tarkine, 77-year-old Frits Harmsen planted a camping chair in front of trucks on an unsealed road snaking through Australia’s largest temperate rainforest.

Harmsen, a former French horn player with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, was part of a small band of Bob Brown-endorsed protesters who on Friday began a 19th day attempting to block work by MMG, a majority Chinese-owned minerals company, in Tasmania’s remote north-west.

Up the road, the mining giant was attempting to carry out drilling and other testing for what it hopes will become a much larger project – a new pipeline and waste storage facility near the town of Rosebery.

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Indonesians Demand Government Match Words with Action and Ditch Ocean Dumping – by Ellen Moore (Earthworks.org – June 7, 2021)

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Less than a year ago, two major nickel EV battery chemical processing plants planned to dump 31 million tonnes of toxic mine waste into the Coral Triangle, threatening fragile and endangered coral reefs and subsistence fishing communities.

Today, both projects have withdrawn their permits to dump mine waste into the ocean, and the Indonesian government has publicly committed not to issue permits for the harmful practice. But there is still work to do.

Earthworks is collaborating with Action for Ecology and People’s Emancipation (AEER) to ensure the Indonesian government uphold its promise to prohibit all future submarine tailings disposal. Until then, the risks to downstream users, financial backers, and most of all communities and the marine environment, remain.

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