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

Manitoba: Rupture of Thompson’s tailing dams could kill nearly 100 people, Vale reveals – by Ian Froese (CBC News Manitoba – June 17, 2019)

Active mine dam in Thompson, Man., records a ‘very high’ hazard rating

A mining giant reeling from a deadly dam collapse in Brazil says it is investigating one of its dams in Thompson, Man., over fears a rupture could kill as many as 100 people.

Vale revealed one of the six active mine dams in the northern Manitoba city recorded a “very high” hazard rating, as determined by the Canadian Dam Association, which means a collapse could result in up to 100 deaths, significant loss of environmental and cultural values and “very high economic losses” affecting important infrastructure.

The mining company disclosed the safety of its dam operations worldwide, after facing pressure from the Church of England Pensions Board and a group of Swedish investors in the wake of a January dam failure at Brumadinho, Brazil, that killed 270 people. Continue Reading →

Russia’s Murmansk region among country’s 10 most polluted, says government agency – by Anna Kireeva ( – June 13, 2019)

Officials have said that Murmansk Region ranks among those with the most polluted air in the country, according to a new report published by Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s federal consumer rights agency.

The report, entitled “On the state of sanitary and epidemiological wellbeing of the population of the Russian Federation in 2018,” paints a stark picture of drier, hotter weather conditions conspiring with industrial pollution all while higher levels of toxins are being measured in area soil.

Specifically, the report says that heavy metal quantities in soil found in residential zones of the Murmansk Region exceed legal measures by three times. Chemical substances found in playgrounds and other areas geared toward children exceeded hygienic standards by the same amount. Continue Reading →

Vale says hopes to reach dam burst global settlements by year-end – by Marta Nogueira (Reuters U.S. – June 13, 2019)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s Vale said on Thursday that it expects to reach global settlements covering economic and environmental damages from the January collapse of its Brumadinho tailings dam by late this year or in 2020.

Vale is scrambling to deal with the fallout from the disaster, which killed at least 246 people, triggered the replacement of its CEO and an overhaul of its board, and has forced it to set aside billions for compensation and cleanup costs.

Investors have been closely watching its ongoing talks with prosecutors and regulators on the terms of a global settlement to see how much higher the price tag from the disaster will be. Continue Reading →

[Yellowknife NWT] A Giant’s Legacy: A look at cleanup plans for one of Canada’s most notorious abandoned mine sites (Canadian Mining Journal – June 1, 2019)

The Giant mine, located just 5 km from the city centre of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, produced more than 7 million oz. of gold over its entire history, starting in the 1940s.

Through the ore roasting process, the mine also produced an enormous amount of highly toxic arsenic trioxide dust. When the owner of the mine went bankrupt in 1999, the cleanup of the site fell to the federal government.

If the project gets its water licence approved, full remediation could finally get under way in 2021 and be completed in 2030. CMJ spoke to Natalie Plato, deputy director for the Giant Mine Remediation Project in May about the site’s history and progress towards its remediation. Continue Reading →

Dozens of Rio tailings dams would be high hazards if they failed – by Darren Gray (Sydney Morning Herald – June 12, 2019)

Dozens of Rio Tinto tailings dams around the world would generate a “high” hazard if they were to fail, according to an audit of the global miner’s tailings dams.

The audit, released late on Wednesday, reveals just over 40 of Rio Tinto’s tailings storage facilities are deemed to have at least a “high” hazard consequence in the event of a failure, including three that were assigned a “very high” rating.

The three deemed “very high” are all outside of Australia, with one in Chile, one in Brazil and the other in Canada. Mining companies have faced intense scrutiny of their approach to tailings dams after the devastating collapse of a dam in January at Vale’s Brumadinho iron ore mine in Brazil. Continue Reading →

Mine tailings failures are the shame of the mining industry – by Len Gillis (Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal – June 2019)

Mining engineer Paul Rantala of Sudbury is hoping more people in his industry will take a fresh look at the issue of tailings dams safety. He is not alone.

Rantala was commenting on the disastrous failure of the tailings dam at the Córrego de Feijão mine, near the community of Brumadinho in Brazil on January 25, 2019. It is believed that more than 400 persons died when millions of litres of mud and tailings swept through a low-lying area for several kilometres.

The tailings failure occurred at the mine owned by Vale S.A., an international mining company based in Brazil, which also has several operations in Sudbury. Continue Reading →

Bonus schemes play a role in tailings dams failures – research – by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud ( – June 9, 2019)

A paper published in the journal Resources Policy states that bonus schemes for middle management employees in mining companies play a role in tailings dams failures.

According to the research article, such compensation packages actively encourage managers to cut costs and increase production, as the material decisions that put into motion such measures lay in their hands and positive results would increase their annual bonuses.

Although most mining companies don’t make public the compensation packages they give their middle management personnel, such incentives are known to be a common practice in the industry. Thus, using the information provided by the two companies that do report them, Newmont Goldcorp (NYSE: NEM, TSX: NGT) and AngloGold Ashanti (JSE:ANG, NYSE:AU), the authors of the study found that some schemes are equivalent, in financial terms, to an equity payment plus a put option. Continue Reading →

Swiss expert to start work on new standards for mining dam safety – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.S. – June 9, 2019)

LONDON (Reuters) – A Swiss environmental expert will make a fact-finding trip this week to the site of the Vale dam disaster in Brazil to start work on setting new dam safety standards for miners.

The safety of dams used to store mining waste, known as tailings, gained prominence after the collapse of Vale’s dam at Brumadinho, Brazil in January that killed about 250 people. It was the second Vale tailings dam collapse in Brazil in less than four years.

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) said in March it was working on new standards with the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and ethical investors’ body the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Continue Reading →

Major miners reveal tailings dam data, action plans following disasters – by Shriya Ramakrishnan and Sangameswaran S (Reuters U.S. – June 7, 2019)

(Reuters) – Global miners BHP Group, Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc revealed details on tailings dams, months after ethical investors sought the information following a second deadly dam disaster in Brazil.

BHP, which operates 67 tailings facilities, said on Friday it has set up a tailings taskforce to further improve its focus on internal dam management and boost safety.

The world’s biggest miner added that a review undertaken to assess the management of tailings facilities following the 2015 Samarco disaster, which killed 19 people, had identified no immediate concerns regarding dam integrity. Continue Reading →

COLUMN: ‘Moonscape’ Sudbury deserves global recognition for its environmental success – by Dr. John Gunn (Northern Ontario Business – June 7, 2019)

Dr. John Gunn is the Canada Research Chair in Stressed Aquatic Systems and the director of the Vale Living with Lakes Centre in Sudbury.

Michael Moore’s recent documentary film about lead in drinking water in Flint Michigan has catapulted that city onto a growing list of places known for environmental disasters, including Chernobyl, Love Canal, Minamata, Bhopal, London with its great deadly smog of 1952, and the little town of Walkerton, Ontario, where seven died and more than 2,000 became sick because of E. coli contamination.

Positive environmental stories from specific places also exist, but like the evening news, the positive stories never get quite as much attention.

There are, however, some wonderful examples, such the Montréal Protocol and the Paris Accord, where a city’s name is forever linked to an event where world leaders came together to address global threats to the environment, such as the ozone depleting compounds in the atmosphere, or the severe threats of climate change. Continue Reading →

Millions at stake in Sask-Ottawa legal fight over uranium mine cleanup – by Francois Biber (CTV News – June 4, 2019)

The Province of Saskatchewan is suing the federal government for its share of the cleanup costs of what used to be the world’s largest uranium mine.

Saskatchewan has spent $135 million so far with total costs estimated at $280 million; the federal government has spent $1 million, Bronwyn Eyre, Saskatchewan’s minister of energy and natural resources, told reporters during a mine site visit. “I think any fair observer looking at that information would say that is not fair.”

Gunnar Mine, located 25 kilometres south of Uranium City near Lake Athabasca, began as an open pit uranium mine in 1954. It operated underground between 1957 and 1963. Continue Reading →

UPDATE 1-Slow landslide at Vale’s Gongo Soco reduces risk to dam – by Gram Slattery (Reuters U.S. – May 31, 2019)

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 31 (Reuters) – A closely watched embankment at a Brazilian iron ore mine run by Vale SA has begun to slide slowly into the bottom of a mining pit, the company said on Friday, reducing concerns that a sudden landslide would trigger a dangerous dam collapse.

Authorities had initially feared that a landslide at Vale’s Gongo Soco mine could destabilize the nearby Sul Superior dam, wreaking havoc on a nearby town. However, the dam remains intact, Vale said.

An environmental official for the state of Minas Gerais had previously estimated a 10-15% chance of the Sul Superior dam losing integrity due to tremors from the expected landslide. Continue Reading →

How should universities introduce more closure training into classrooms? – by Jax Jacobsen (CIM Magazine – May 27, 2019)

Mining engineering grapples with how to integrate more closure and CSR into the curriculum

Following a series of high-profile tailings dam failures, the waste management and closure practices of the mining industry are under increasing scrutiny. Canadian universities for their part are questioning how they should adapt their curriculum to better prepare the next generation of miners to work in this new reality.

Leading mining educators in Canada have mixed feelings about shaking up the curriculum to incorporate more mine closure-focused coursework.
“We cannot [spend] the time on courses related to these fields without having an impact on other fields,” said Bruno Bussière, a professor at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) and the scientific director of RIME UQAT-Polytechnique (Research Institute for Mines and the Environment).

“We have very dense programs with a lot of courses,” he said, adding that incorporating new course requirements would mean removing something else from the curriculum. Continue Reading →

The internet of tailings: Better connections, affordable sensors and smarter platforms are the foundation for modern tailings storage facility monitoring – by Cecilia Keating (CIM Magazine – May 29, 2019)

Mine operators and regulators can now monitor readings from sensor equipment installed at tailings storage facilities more quickly, less expensively and without having to physically traipse around the tailings dam to manually collect the data. In some cases, engineers can check in on dams’ sensor readings in near real time from thousands of kilometres away.

This is largely thanks to the technological sorcery of the internet of things (IoT). When mentioned in relation to mine tailings monitoring, IoT technology means that old-school geotechnical sensors – like thermistors, inclinometers and piezometers – are made “smart,” or imbued with the ability to communicate.

In other words, battery-charged data acquisition systems are matched to the sensors threaded across a tailings dam, collecting sensor data and transmitting it to a central hub through a communications network. That central gateway will, in turn, push data to a digital dashboard where mine engineers and regulators can review it. Continue Reading →

Brazil’s iron ore industry misery, a boom for Australian big miners (Merco Press – May 29, 2019)

Iron ore prices look set to be stronger for longer, potentially delivering windfall profits for West Australia’s big miners for the next two years.

As the iron ore price hit a five-year high of US$107.50/t this week, analysts have begun scrambling to revise their estimates as they start to digest the impact of supply disruptions out of Brazil and how long the outages could linger.

Iron ore giant Vale has been forced to close mines in Brazil, representing about 90 million tons of annual product, after a tailing dam disaster in January which killed hundreds. The company is facing another dam failure at one of its inactive mines and its 30mtpa Brucutu mine remains closed with lingering uncertainty as to when it can reopen. Continue Reading →