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

Northern mine cleanups continue; province, feds still divided on cost – by Alex MacPherson (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – February 24, 2020)

https://thestarphoenix.com/

Crews are expected to start assessing Saskatchewan’s first uranium mine, which was staked 100 years ago, this summer.

Saskatchewan’s first uranium discovery was staked a century ago, but it took almost three decades before prospectors gave up attempting to extract iron, copper and gold from the site and turned their attention to its last remaining mineral resource.

Named for the former Royal North-West Mounted Police officer who re-staked the site on the north shore of Lake Athabasca in 1929, the Nicholson mine underwent development in 1949 and sent out its first uranium shipments five years later.

Production halted in 1956 after Consolidated Nicholson Mines Ltd.’s supply contract ended in the face of falling prices. Subsequent efforts to resume mining failed and the remote site was abandoned with little cleanup effort a few years later. Continue Reading →

Yukonomist: Three questions on Yukon Zinc and China – by Keith Halliday (Yukon News – February 20, 2020)

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What would you like the Yukon government to spend $35.5 million on? Perhaps more nurses at the hospital? Some green power plants to fight climate change? Affordable housing? More front-line teachers?

Well, never mind. Judging from Yukon Zinc’s bankruptcy case, it looks like the government will be spending it cleaning up another abandoned mine. This case is particularly troubling. First, it’s recent. The mine opened in 2012. Unlike Faro, we can’t blame this one on 1960s-era mining techniques and long-dead mining executives and regulators.

Second, it’s on the Yukon’s tab. Devolution meant gaining authority over our own resources. It also meant that we would be on the hook for mining mishaps authorized by the Yukon government. The Yukon government is already going into deeper debt each fiscal year, and a $35.5 million hit will have to come out of the hide of other public programs. Continue Reading →

Internal probe confirms Vale knew Brumadinho dam was unsafe – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – February 21, 2020)

https://www.mining.com/

Brazilian iron ore miner Vale (NYSE: VALE) has published the results of an independent report into the Córrego do Feijão mine’s tailings dam collapse that killed 270 people last year, which reveals the company knew about the facility’s fragile condition since 2003.

According to the document, prepared by a committee formed by Vale last year, concerns about how unstable the main B1 dam was were raised at various points over the course of 16 years, but the miner failed to appropriately deal with them.

Last month, state prosecutors charged Fabio Schvartsman, the chief executive at the time of the burst, and 15 other people with homicide. Schvartsman left his position at the company in March 2019. Continue Reading →

‘Transformation’ is in the air at Vale – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – February 12, 2020)

https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/

Electric vehicle market, carbon neutral plans, environmental safeguards part of Sudbury miner’s current and future operations

The thrust of Dino Otranto’s presentation was on the transformational challenges ahead for base metal mining giant Vale to create a business that’s sustainable in the Sudbury basin for generations to come.

But the opening image he flashed to a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce lunchtime crowd on Feb. 11 was of the Brumadinho tailings dam break at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Brazil on Jan. 25, 2019. It was the company’s second major dam breach in that country in four years.

The man-made environmental catastrophe at Brumadinho produced a toxic mudflow that swept away the company’s offices, and houses, farms and roads in a nearby village, and contaminated a major river system. Continue Reading →

The scientists restoring a gold-mining disaster in the Peruvian Amazon – by Jeff Tollefson (Nature.com – February 4, 2020)

https://www.nature.com/

Months after the military expelled thousands of illegal miners from La Pampa, researchers gained access to a sandy wasteland.

“Holy shit!” Miles Silman gasped as his motorized rickshaw rattled out of the forest and onto a desolate beach. All traces of the trees, vines and swamps that once covered this patch of the Amazon had vanished. In their place were sun-baked dunes and polluted ponds created by illegal gold-mining. Silman, a conservation biologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was there to document the carnage.

La Pampa was once the largest and most dangerous gold-mining zone in the Peruvian Amazon, so riddled with gangsters that scientists dared not enter. For nearly a decade, they could only watch by satellite as gold hunters mowed down some of the most biodiverse rainforest on the planet. That ended in February 2019, when the government declared martial law and expelled an estimated 5,000 miners.

Now, La Pampa is deserted and under military guard. When Silman and his colleagues surveyed the area for the first time in late June, they found a barren, eerily quiet landscape polluted with mercury, a toxic by-product of mining. The data that the researchers collect on this inadvertent experiment could help to determine the extent to which restoration is possible — or document the evolution of an entirely new, and human-made, ecosystem. Continue Reading →

Murder charges in Vale dam collapse case complicate Brazilian probes – by Marta Nogueira (Reuters U.S. – January 27, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The filing of murder charges against the former CEO of Brazilian miner Vale SA and 15 others for a 2019 dam collapse that killed more than 250 people was hailed by victims’ families as a major step in bringing those responsible to justice.

But the move by state prosecutors in Brazil’s Minas Gerais risks driving a wedge between their investigation and a parallel probe at the federal level, complicating the judicial process and potentially making convictions less likely, according to a lawyer with knowledge of the case and other legal experts.

Federal investigators are yet to identify the cause of the Jan. 25, 2019 collapse of a tailings dam at the Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine dam east of Brumadinho, which released a sea of mud that slammed into Vale’s offices and cut through a nearby community, killing 259 people and leaving 11 still missing. It was one of the world’s worst mining tragedies. Continue Reading →

Giant Mine’s shameful legacy toward the Yellowknives – Editorial (Yellowknifer – January 23, 2020)

https://nnsl.com/yellowknifer/

The concept of providing financial amends for historic injustices that have negatively impacted people to this day is getting renewed attention.

Reparations for American slavery, for example, is a proposal that argues that compensation of some sort should be paid to the descendants of slaves brought to this continent from Sub-Saharan Africa. But who would be paid, how much and, most importantly, where would the money come from?

The first prospectors and miners in North America were the first people to live here. Indigenous people utilized minerals for tools, weapons and in their artworks. Then came the Europeans who would revolutionize the way gems, minerals, oil and gas were extracted, forging a major economic component in our country’s development. Continue Reading →

Sudbury: MiningWatch Canada pushes for global review of safety of tailings dams (CBC News Sudbury – January 23, 2020)

https://www.cbc.ca/

Third party would review engineering and ground conditions, says MiningWatch spokesperson

State prosecutors in Brazil have charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former chief executive of the mining company Vale, and 15 other people with homicide in connection with a tailings dam disaster last January that killed more than 250 people.

Jamie Kneen is communications and outreach coordinator with MiningWatch Canada. Kneen said his organization is pushing for a global review of the safety of tailing dams.

“We really need an independent third party with a lot of clout and credibility to have the authority to go in and investigate and look at the engineering but also the ground conditions,” he said. Vale and the company responsible for inspecting the dam have also been charged with environmental crimes. Continue Reading →

Brazil charges ex-Vale CEO with homicide for dam disaster – by Marta Nogueira (Reuters U.S. – Janaury 21, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian state prosecutors on Tuesday charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former chief executive of mining giant Vale SA, and 15 other people with homicide for a dam disaster last year that killed more than 250 people, according to the charging document seen by Reuters.

In addition to homicide charges, Vale and TUV SUD, the German company responsible for inspecting the dam, were charged with environmental crimes. Of the 16 individuals charged, 11 had worked for Vale and five for TUV SUD, prosecutors said.

The charges, which were presented nearly a year after the collapse of a Vale tailings dam in the state of Minas Gerais, represent a major step forward in Brazilian authorities’ attempt to hold individuals criminally responsible for the disaster. Continue Reading →

Pollution insurance costs to jump for U.S. tailings dams after Vale disaster – by Suzanne Barlyn (Reuters U.S. – January 21, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

The 2019 mining disaster in Brazil is expected to lead to a double-digit jump in costs to insure U.S. tailings dams that store mining waste against liability for environmental catastrophes.

Tailings dams, some of which tower dozens of meters high and stretch for several kilometers (miles), are the most common waste-disposal method for mining companies, whether they extract iron ore, gold or copper.

The deadly collapse last January of the dam at Vale SA’s Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine in Brumadinho rocked the mining industry and spurred calls for massive operational changes. At least 259 people were killed here in the incident. Continue Reading →

Vale’s biggest problem won’t be easy to fix – by Vinícius Andrade and Sabrina Valle (Australian Financial Review/Bloomberg – Janaury 17, 2020)

https://www.afr.com/

São Paulo | In the weeks and months after Vale’s deadly dam disaster, some of Brazil’s biggest investors snatched up shares in a bet they’d bounce back and then keep rising.

A year later, the gamble paid off, but with a caveat: The stock rebounded, but Vale’s reputation hasn’t — and that’s the problem. Vale still trades at a discount of at least 20pc to peers BHP and Rio Tinto, based on enterprise-value-to-expected-Ebitda ratio.

While the world’s largest iron ore producer, like all miners, has struggled with plenty of environmental issues in the past, there’s no denying that a company’s green credentials suddenly matter now more than ever. Continue Reading →

South Africa has the world’s highest number of environmentally dangerous tailing dams – by Tawanda Karombo (Quartz Africa – January 16, 2020)

https://qz.com/

South Africa has the highest number of dangerous tailing dams—structures constructed, often by mining companies, to store waste in liquid form. The dams are considered hazardous if improperly handled and have resulted in environmental disasters and deaths many times around the world.

Wider environmental hazards arising out of mining operations in South Africa, and elsewhere in Africa, range from river contamination from chemicals used in mining processes to improper rehabilitation of mined out operations.

Tailing dams have emerged as the latest significant environmental risk factor from mining and South Africa has the highest number of the riskiest of these, according to an investigative report by Reuters. Continue Reading →

Court sides with environmental groups in ongoing De Beers lawsuit – by Elena De Luigi (Timmins Press – January 13, 2020)

https://www.timminspress.com/

“There needs to be accountability. We need our regulators to step up and do their job.”

The courts have ruled in favour of an environmental group that accused De Beers Canada of allegedly failing to report mercury monitoring data collected at the Victor Diamond Mine to the provincial regulator. The Victor Diamond Mine is located on wetlands along the Attawapiskat River near Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay Coast.

Timmins provincial court Justice David A. Thomas granted the appeal made by Trevor Hesselink, the director of Wildlands League, the non-profit organization that accused De Beers in 2015 of breaching a section of the Ontario Water Resources Act on an ongoing basis between June 2009 and July 2016.

Hesselink alleged DeBeers failed to self-monitor and report on the mine’s “effluent discharge,” specifically the levels of mercury and methyl mercury seeping into the Attawapiskat River. Continue Reading →

Group wants Long Lake plan to move forward – by Jim Moodie (Sudbury Star – January 10, 2020)

https://www.thesudburystar.com/

Despite concerns raised by some residents, most people living on Long Lake support a new plan to tackle contamination from an old gold mine, according to the head of a stewardship group.

“You can’t satisfy everybody 100 per cent of the time,” said Scott Darling, chair of the Long Lake Stewardship Committee. “But our position is this is the best plan we have seen in close to 10 years for getting the problem solved, and the problem is the arsenic in the lake.”

A cleanup and tailings-containment strategy put forward in 2017 by the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines was met with more resistance, he said, as it would have resulted in a high volume of truck traffic on area roads. The ministry went back to the drawing board, however, considering four alternatives to the original plan. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: Brazil prosecutor aims to charge Vale within days over mining waste dam disaster – by Marta Nogueira and Christian Plumb (Reuters U.S. – January 8, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (Reuters) – A Brazilian state prosecutor expects to bring criminal charges “in the next few days” against miner Vale (VALE3.SA) over a mining waste dam collapse that killed at least 259 people, even as the prosecutor’s federal counterpart continues to investigate the case.

Andressa de Oliveira Lanchotti, coordinator for the task force of state prosecutors investigating the disaster, told Reuters they expect to indict 15 to 20 people, including executives from Vale and employees from German inspection firm TÜV SÜD – as well as the companies themselves.

“What we can take away from the investigations is there were several factors pointing to risk – the risk was not unknown,” Lanchotti said, disputing Vale’s contention that it had no way of knowing that the dam that unleashed an avalanche of mining waste on the Brazilian town of Brumadinho in January 2019 posed a danger. Continue Reading →