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

‘Imminent’ Collapse of Wastewater Reservoir in Florida Forces Evacuations – by Bryan Pietsch and Marie Fazio (New York Times – April 3, 2021)

A reservoir in Florida that holds nearly 400 million gallons of wastewater from a former phosphate mine was leaking on Saturday, prompting hundreds of evacuations, the authorities said.

Crews were “doing their best to control the outflow” of contaminated water into a creek at Piney Point in Florida, the site of a former phosphate mine that is south of Tampa, said Vanessa Baugh, the chairwoman of the Manatee County Commission.

The spillage was an “imminent hazard” that posed “an immediate and substantial danger to human health, safety, welfare and the environment,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, who issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency. Continue Reading →

Mining giant’s historic penalty prompts environmentalists to call for stricter coal-mining rules – by Mike Hager (Globe and Mail – March 28, 2021)

A $60-million penalty to Teck Coal underscores the urgent need for B.C. to adopt stricter coal-mining regulations in line with American states downstream of the same valley where four large projects have been proposed, according to the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre and a binational coalition of environmental groups.

Last Friday, a Federal Court judge approved the largest Fisheries Act penalty ever for the subsidiary of Teck Resources after the mining giant put forward a joint submission with Environment and Climate Change Canada stating it contaminated waterways in southeastern B.C.’s Elk Valley with selenium – a natural element that washes out of piles of waste rock and moves up the food chain to cause deformities in fish and ruin their ability to reproduce.

The judge commended Teck as a good corporate citizen for spending $1-billion since the pollution was first uncovered by federal inspectors in 2012 and for co-operating to avoid a costly court case that would likely become the longest environmental lawsuit in Canadian history. Continue Reading →

Giant Mine contamination apology discussions underway, says Yellowknives Dene First Nation – by Hannah Paulson (CBC News North – March 4, 2021)

‘The destruction of the ecosystem that we have always enjoyed is a very painful history,’ chief says

A First Nation in the Northwest Territories is expecting to receive an apology from the federal government for the contamination of its land.

That’s according to Ed Sangris, chief of Dettah, N.W.T., who says the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) are expecting the process for an apology from the federal government, for the harms caused by contamination from the former Giant Mine, to begin in June.

A spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada confirmed that the federal government has never apologized for the harm suffered by Indigenous people following the development and contamination of land caused by mining in the North. Continue Reading →

Alaska-B.C. mine rivers generally healthy: state-province joint report – by Jeremy Hainsworth (Business In Vancouver – February 25, 2021)

A four-year study of Alaska-B.C. rivers associated with mining activity – spurred by U.S. and Canadian complaints about environmental threats – has concluded there aren’t risks to marine habitat.

People on both sides in the Alaska Panhandle region, including at least one U.S. senator, had complained to then U.S. President Barack Obama’s secretary of state John Kerry that discharges associated with B.C. mines such as the Red Chris, KSM and New Polaris Mine were leaching materials into ocean waters and threatening fisheries.

While the concerns date back many years, it was the 2014 collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings dam, which sent a torrent of 25 million cubic metres of water and mine slurry into nearby creeks, that intensified calls for border mine discharges to be examined. Continue Reading →

From Brazil to Bulgaria: the giants we ignore at our peril – by Marco Ranocchiari (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso – February 9, 2021)

25 January 2019 had seemed like a normal enough day for the iron mine workers in Brumadinho, in Brazil’s Minas Gerais province. Many were taking their lunch break when, at 12:28 surveillance cameras showed the almost 90 metre high earthen dam instantaneously pulverised.

In just a few seconds 12 million cubic metres of water and waste from mineral processing submerged everything within seven kilometres: trees, homes, animals, railway tracks.

Looking at drone-footage of the devastation, millions of people recognised, perhaps for the first time in decades, the dark side of a sector fundamental to our era but nearly invisible: mining. Continue Reading →

EPA awards $220 million for uranium mine cleanup on Navajo Nation – by Haleigh Kochanski ( – February 16, 2021)

Cronkite News – WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will award contracts worth up to $220 million to three companies for the cleanup of some of the hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

Work could start later this year following the completion of assessments for mining sites coordinated between the EPA and the Navajo Nation’s environmental agency, the federal agency said.

This week’s announcement is just the latest in years of efforts to clean up the mines, the toxic legacy of Cold War mining in the region. More than 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined in the region, according to the EPA, which said more than 500 mines were ultimately abandoned. Continue Reading →

Electric vehicles can drive more responsible mining – by Pius Ginting and Payal Sampat (China Dialogue Ocean – February 12, 2021)


Pius Ginting is the coordinator of Aksi Ekologi dan Emansipasi Rakyat in Indonesia. Payal Sampat is the mining program director at Earthworks in the United States.

The ocean waters surrounding eastern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea lie within the biodiverse Coral Triangle, home to some of the world’s most highly concentrated – and endangered – coral reefs.

In addition to being globally significant ecological sites, the reefs supply habitat for several important commercial and subsistence fisheries central to local communities’ lives.

Meanwhile, the area’s nickel deposits are attracting the attention of electric vehicle manufacturers, which rely on batteries containing nickel and other minerals like lithium and cobalt. Nickel demand is expected to increase six-fold by 2030 and Indonesia, which is already the world’s largest nickel producer, is dramatically scaling up production to meet it. Continue Reading →

Is Johannesburg the most radioactive city in the world? – by Naledi Mashishi (Afica – February 15, 2021)

South African advocacy groups have claimed Johannesburg is the most radioactive city on Earth, because of the mining of uranium-rich gold fields. But uranium contamination and radioactivity aren’t the same thing.

The history of gold mining and the South African city of Johannesburg are intimately linked – the city was founded after the discovery of the precious metal on the Witwatersrand in 1884. Locals call it “the City of Gold”, but can it also claim the title of “most radioactive city on earth”?

“Joburg is the most radioactive city on the planet, thanks to its gold-mining past, says Earthlife Africa,” read an article on news website Independent Online in late 2020. It linked this startling claim to the dumping of uranium as a waste product of gold mining. Continue Reading →

Stunning NASA photo shows ‘gold’ Peruvian Amazon rivers, but there’s a dark backstory – by Jack Guy (CTV News – February 11, 2021)

All that glitters is not gold, the saying goes, as proven by a new photo taken from the International Space Station (ISS).

What appear to be rivers of gold running through the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios state in eastern Peru are in fact prospecting pits, likely left by independent miners, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory, which published the photo taken by one of its astronauts.

The pits are normally hidden from view to those on the ISS, but stand out in this shot due to reflected sunlight. The image shows the Inambari River and a number of pits surrounded by deforested areas of muddy spoil. Continue Reading →

Top coal scientist warns Albertans of contamination from mining – by Bob Weber (Canadian Press/CBC News Calgary – February 16, 2021)

One of North America’s top experts on pollution from coal mines is warning Albertans about the dangers of expanding the industry in the province’s Rocky Mountains.

“Expansion of coal-mining up the Alberta Rockies chain will absolutely produce an environmental disaster for fish and wildlife health in what are now pristine, high-quality watersheds,” Dennis Lemly wrote in an email to The Canadian Press.

Lemly is a retired U.S. government scientist who has published dozens of papers with hundreds of citations on coal-mining’s impact. Continue Reading →

Nornickel fined $2 billion for massive Arctic fuel spill – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – February 5, 2021)

Norilsk Nickel (MCX: GMKN), the world’s largest producer of palladium and nickel, will have to pay a record fine of 146 billion rubles ($1.94 billion) in compensation for a huge fuel spill in the Arctic last May, a Russian court ruled on Friday.

The amount, while in line with a demand by the nation’s environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, more than doubles what Russia is seeking to get in mineral extraction tax from mining companies this year.

“We won!!!” Rosprirodnadzor head Svetlana Rodionova, who was in the courtroom on Friday, said in an Instagram post. “Ecology is everyone’s business!!!” Continue Reading →

Vale to Pay $7 Billion for One of Worst Ever Mine Disasters – by James Attwood (Yahoo Finance/Bloomberg – February 4, 2021)

(Bloomberg) — Vale SA reached a settlement agreement with Brazilian authorities for a dam collapse that killed 270 people and led to production cutbacks that stripped the company of the title of world’s biggest iron ore producer.

The deal comes two years after the Brumadinho disaster, giving affected communities a clear framework for compensation and reparations and removing a considerable legal overhang for Vale. Its shares were little changed in Sao Paulo.

Vale will pay 37.7 billion reais ($7.03 billion) including cash payments to affected people and investments in environmental projects, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said in a statement. Vale estimates it will book an additional expense of 19.8 billion reais in 2020 results. Continue Reading →

‘Permanent state of fear’: 2 years after disaster, mine tailings dams a big risk – by Taylor Kuykendall (S&P Global Market Intelligence – Janaury 2021)

On Jan. 25, 2019, a large dam full of mining waste from the Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine owned by Vale SA ruptured and sent a mudslide downstream toward Brumadinho, Brazil, killing at least 270 people. Two years later, some question if the mining industry has done enough to avert further disasters.

Vale has faced billions in costs due to the incident, and several employees and contractors were charged with homicide, including former Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman. While new standards have been introduced, many people still fear other tailings dams could fail, putting communities around the world at risk.

Maria Teresa Corujo is with Janeiro Marrom, or Brown January, a campaign working to raise awareness about the disaster. Corujo described training drills with sirens in Brazilian communities near tailings dams, so that community members could rehearse running in case of another failure. Continue Reading →

Brumadinho dam collapse could have been predicted weeks in advance – study – by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud ( – January 24, 2021)

The dam collapse at Vale’s (NYSE: VALE) Córrego do Feijão mining complex in Brazil, which killed almost 300 people two years ago, could have been foreseen with the right monitoring technology.

This is according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Nottingham and Durham University, who collaborated with Terra Motion and discovered that by applying satellite radar imaging InSAR to check for small ground movements in and around dams, it is possible to predict a dam burst. Continue Reading →

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 →