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

Legacy of Canada’s role in atomic bomb is felt by northern Indigenous community – by Geoffrey Bird (The Conversation – August 9, 2020)

Geoffrey Bird is Professor of heritage, culture, and tourism at Royal Roads University.

As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a little known part of the legacy is the impact on the Délı̨nę First Nation of the Northwest Territories. I explore their stories in the film A Moral Awakening, which is available online.

This heritage connects Indigenous people, Canadians and people all over the world who are concerned with peace, reconciliation and social justice. The film contributes to understanding of the global impact of nuclear weapons and its contested history.

But the main goal of A Moral Awakening is to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the people of Délı̨nę, a story long silenced. Continue Reading →

Life in Kyrgyzstan’s once-booming uranium mining town, where the past poisons the future – by Liza Premiyak (The Calvert Journal – August 10, 2020)

Mailuu-Suu is a small town in southern Kyrgyzstan, secretly built by the Soviets in the 1950s. The uranium extracted there from the surrounding mountains between 1946 and 1968 was reportedly used to create the first atomic bomb for the Soviet nuclear programme.

But improperly managed, the mines also heralded environmental catastrophe. In 1958, a dam failure caused nuclear waste to collapse into the area’s water system.

Even when operations were running smoothly, nuclear waste was often hastily disposed of close to the town. Much of it remains. Today, earthquakes and landslides pose an ever present threat to the town’s uranium dumps. Continue Reading →

Global Tailings Review launches new tailings management standard – by Matthew Parizot (CIM Magazine – August 6, 2020)

On August 6, the Global Tailings Review (GTR) launched its long-awaited Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, created due to the tragic tailings dam failure at Vale’s Brazilian Córrego do Feijão iron mine in January 2019.

The GTR was originally co-convened in March of the same year and consists of three organizations – the United Nations Environment Programme, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) – which combined will pressure governments, investors and mining companies to adopt the standard for themselves.

The standard also incorporated feedback from 340 extractive companies operating around the world through disclosures of their tailing facilities and methods. Continue Reading →

MINING WATCH NEWS RELEASE: Mine Waste Safety: New Global Industry Standard Will Not End Disasters (August 5, 2020)

TORONTO and NEW YORK and LONDON, Aug. 05, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — In response to the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the Industry Standard) launched today, a group of scientists, community organizations, and non-governmental organizations say the Industry Standard does not go far enough to adequately protect workers, communities, and ecosystems from future mine waste failures.

Together with Earthworks and MiningWatch Canada, the group released a “Scorecard” comparing the Industry Standard to the 16 Safety First Guidelines. Those guidelines were launched in June by 142 scientists, community groups, and non-governmental organizations from 24 countries. The group concludes that over half (nine) of the 16 guidelines are not met, six are partially met, and only one is fulfilled (see also an assessment of B.C. regulations here).

Their analysis highlights that the Industry Standard is voluntary and mostly management-based, not performance-based, with no implementation or enforcement mechanisms, and no set of consequences or penalties if companies fail to meet the Standard. Continue Reading →

Barrick backs new global industry standard for mine tailings dams – by Staff (Northern Ontario Business – July 5, 2020)

North Shore miner Barrick Gold is endorsing a new international standard for managing current and future mine tailings facilities with the aim of preventing waste dam failures.

The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management was born from a year-long review process by United Nations Environment Programme, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the International Council on Mining and Minerals.

With more than 12,000 tailings storage facilities globally, the goal of the review was to establish a standard of the safer management of mine waste, by strengthening environmental, social, governance and technical practices of the mining industry across the entire lifecycle of these facilities. Continue Reading →

How microbes could help clean up Nova Scotia’s abandoned mines – by Emma Smith (CBC News Nova Scotia – August 6, 2020)

‘We want to develop a treatment that you would apply … that would block the arsenic and the mercury’

Researchers from three Maritime universities are hoping microbes collected from the bottom of a lake near an abandoned gold mine in Dartmouth, N.S., will provide a model for how to clean up contaminated sites across the province in a quicker and less-intrusive way.

Last May, a research team took a boat to the middle of Lake Charles, not far from the former Montague gold mine, where extensive mining took place from 1860 to about 1940.

They lowered a plastic tube 30 metres into the water and scooped up 200-year-old sediment, which provides a snapshot of the lake before, during and after the mine was in operation. Continue Reading →

Goal of tailings management should be zero harm – report ( – July 1, 2020)

An international group of 142 scientists, community groups and NGOs from 24 countries has published a set of 16 guidelines for the safer storage of mine waste.

The guidelines aim to protect communities, workers and the environment from the risks posed by thousands of mine waste storage facilities, which are failing more frequently and with more severe outcomes.

“Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management” argues that the ultimate goal of tailings management must be zero harm to people and the environment and zero tolerance for human fatalities. Continue Reading →

Environmental groups propose tailings dam safety standards (Reuters Africa – June 30, 2020)

June 30 (Reuters) – Mining companies should be required to buy private insurance for tailings dams and their board of directors should be held legally responsible for any disasters, a coalition of 140 environmental groups said in a report published on Tuesday.

The recommendations, which differ from standards to be published soon from a group that includes miners and investors, come as public scrutiny over tailings dams has intensified after the deadly 2019 collapse of a Brazil dam owned by Vale SA .

Earthworks and MiningWatch Canada, two prominent environmental nonprofits, co-wrote the report that includes 16 recommendations they hope will be adopted by regulators across the world and used by bankers as they consider whether to lend to miners. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: Safety First: New Report Outlines Guidelines To End Mine Waste Disasters (Mining Watch – June 30, 2020)

(Ottawa/Washington, DC) Today an international group of 142 scientists, community groups, and NGOs from 24 countries published a set of 16 guidelines for the safer storage of mine waste. The guidelines aim to protect communities, workers and the environment from the risks posed by thousands of mine waste storage facilities, which are failing more frequently and with more severe outcomes.

“Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management” states that the ultimate goal of tailings management must be zero harm to people and the environment and zero tolerance for human fatalities. Last year’s tragic dam collapse in Brazil killed 270 people and destroyed the town of Brumadinho, and came on the heels of tailings dam failures at the Mount Polley mine in Canada and the Samarco mine in Brazil, among others.

There are 71 known cases of tailings failures since 2010 that have led to 482 deaths and damaged over 2,100 km of waterways. Across the world, communities in the shadow of large tailings dams live in a state of perpetual fear. Continue Reading →

Russian mining giant behind major Arctic fuel spill admits waste ‘violations’ (South China Post – June 29, 2020)

Agence France-Presse – A Russian mining giant behind an enormous Arctic fuel spill last month said Sunday it had suspended workers at a metals plant who were responsible for pumping waste water into nearby tundra.

Norilsk Nickel cited a “flagrant violation of operating rules” in a statement announcing it had suspended employees responsible for dumping waste water from a dangerously full reservoir into wildlife.

The incident occurred at the Talnakh enrichment plant near the Arctic city of Norilsk, the company said, one month after the unprecedented fuel leak sparked a state of emergency declared by President Vladimir Putin. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: Global tailings dam standards fall short of changes sought by civil society groups – by Jeff Lewis (Reuters U.S. – June 24, 2020)

TORONTO (Reuters) – A sweeping global standard that sets out how the world’s largest miners care for waste dams falls short of measures environmental and civil society groups say are needed to avert future disasters, according to a copy of the final draft seen by Reuters.

A panel of industry, investor and U.N. groups has been working for more than a year on the standard, triggered by the 2019 collapse of Vale SA’s (VALE3.SA) Brumadinho upstream tailings dam that killed more than 250 people. The standard is not binding but the panel expects that miners will adhere to it.

Tailings dams, some of which tower dozens of meters high and stretch for several kilometers, are the most common waste-disposal method for miners. Brazil has banned new upstream mining dams and ordered existing ones be deactivated by 2021. Continue Reading →

The Oil Spill From Russian Nickel Mine Is Moving Toward The Arctic Ocean ( – June 16, 2020)


There is an environmental disaster developing in the Arctic. More than 150,000 barrels of diesel oil from a mining complex spewed into a river in northern Russia late last month. It is the biggest oil spill in the Arctic to date. And now the oil slick is moving towards the Arctic Ocean. NPR international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Most Arctic experts agree that the three great concerns for the frozen north are climate change, stranded ships and oil spills.

VICTORIA HERRMANN: To get a response to an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean means that you have to move infrastructure, expertise, ships from more southern ports up to the Arctic. Continue Reading →

Huge Arctic Fuel Spill May Have Been Triggered by Climate Change – by Yuliya Fedorinova (Bloomberg News – June 4, 2020)

Russia declared a federal state of emergency in part of Siberia after a massive fuel spill that MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC said could have been caused by melting permafrost.

The May 29 incident, in which 20,000 tons of diesel leaked from a reservoir owned by Nornickel, may revive concerns about the effects of climate change on infrastructure in the Arctic. Scientists have warned for years that thawing of once permanently frozen ground covering more than half of Russia is threatening the stability of buildings and pipelines.

Greenpeace said the accident was the largest ever in the Arctic region, and likened it to the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989. The cause of the spill hasn’t been determined, but Nornickel First Vice President Sergey Dyachenko said on Thursday it could be the result of damage from melting permafrost. The rate of warming in the Arctic is twice as fast as the rest of the world. Continue Reading →

Guest view: Fix Canadian mining issues now – by Rich Moy and Ric Hauer (Montana Standard – June 2020)

Rich Moy spent over 30 years working in water policy, planning and management in Montana and regionally and served as a U.S. commissioner on the International Joint Commission from 2011 to 2019. Ric Hauer is professor emeritus at the University of Montana and Flathead Lake Biological Station. Both have worked on Canadian mining issues since the late 1970s.

An international group of science and policy experts from the United States and Canada recently published a letter in the prestigious journal Science voicing concern for the poisoning of U.S. rivers stemming from Canadian headwaters. The source of the contamination? Hard-rock and coal mining.

We’ve known about the toxins flowing from British Columbia into downstream states for decades. However, the poisoning of U.S. waters from Canadian mining is about to get dramatically worse and will go on for centuries if it is not stopped, and stopped before it’s too late.

The Science article urged immediate action calling on the United States and Canada to jointly invoke the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to resolve several transboundary water disputes. Continue Reading →

U.S. demands explanation from province over river pollution from B.C. mines – by Bob Weber (CBC News British Columbia – May 11, 2020)

Contamination from Teck coal mines in waterways of Elk River watershed is a long-standing problem

CANADIAN PRESS: The U.S. government is increasingly concerned about pollution from British Columbian mines, following new research that shows contaminants in a river south of the border came from Canada.

In a letter obtained by The Canadian Press, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is demanding the provincial government hand over data explaining why Teck Resources coal mines in southern B.C. are being allowed to exceed guidelines for a toxic heavy metal.

“The EPA … finds it unacceptable that the province has accepted [a treatment plan] that will allow seasonal exceedances of water quality objectives into the future,” says the Feb. 4 letter to B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman. Continue Reading →