Archive | Mining Environmental Accidents, Pollution and Abandoned Mines

As Australia’s mining boom wanes, rehabilitation of abandoned mines offers lessons for the world – by Bianca Nogrady ( – October 12, 2018)

Across the globe, countries are figuring out how to bring plants and animals back to abandoned mines. With as many as 60,000 such sites, Australia could offer important lessons.

The 1986 Australian film Crocodile Dundee brought global fame to its leading man Paul Hogan, but the real star of the show was the vast, ancient landscape of the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.

Kakadu is the jewel in the crown of Australia’s national parks, but this unique wilderness is also home to one of the world’s largest uranium mines. The Ranger mine has been operational since 1980 but its time is drawing to a close; mining ended in 2012, and processing of the remaining stockpiled ore is expected to finish in 2020.

So what then for the mine site? It’s a question being asked with increasing urgency around Australia as the mining boom that has powered the Australian economy for nearly fifteen years wanes. There are as many as 60,000 abandoned mine sites, some in otherwise pristine ecosystems found nowhere else on earth. Continue Reading →

Anthropocene art show and documentary will shock you with a view of human impact on the planet – by Kate Taylor (Globe and Mail – October 1, 2018)

Like some eerie sculpture, a dome-shaped pile of elephant tusks glimmers in a darkened gallery. It’s a non-existent thing, the virtual recreation of a huge cache of contraband ivory burned to ashes two years ago.

Poaching is pushing the African elephant to the brink, yet another example of our species’ pervasive impact on the planet. The indelible and spreading mark of human activity is the meaning of the term Anthropocene and the theme of a four-year collaboration between award-winning landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky and the documentary filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier.
Following on their environmental films Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark, the Anthropocene project includes not only a new documentary but also two museum exhibitions and an art book. Continue Reading →

[British Columbia] Mount Polley mine engineers face disciplinary hearing – by Andrea Woo (Globe and Mail – September 26, 2018)

The regulatory body that oversees British Columbia’s engineers and geoscientists is alleging negligence and unprofessional conduct against three engineers in connection with the 2014 Mount Polley dam collapse that sent millions of cubic metres of tailings-pond water into B.C. waterways.

Engineers and Geoscientists BC announced the hearings, scheduled for next year, for Todd Martin, Laura Fidel and Stephen Rice on Wednesday following an independent investigation into the breach.

The regulator’s investigation committee alleges that the three individuals, who were involved in the design, construction and monitoring of the tailings-storage facility, demonstrated negligence and/or unprofessional conduct in the course of their professional activities. The allegations have not yet been heard by a disciplinary panel and are unproven. Continue Reading →

Appeals court sides with Colville Tribe against Canadian mining company for polluting Upper Columbia River – by Agueda Pacheco-Flores (Seattle Times – September 25, 2018)

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision finding a Canadian company is liable for polluting the Upper Columbia River in a hard-fought lawsuit between the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the largest lead and zinc mining company in the world.

In a 55-page opinion issued Sep. 14, federal appellate court judges Ronald M. Gould, Richard A. Paez, and Michael J. McShane upheld a district-court decision that U.S. federal courts do have jurisdiction to find Teck Resources Ltd. (formerly Teck Cominco Metals) liable for polluting the river for close to a century.

The ruling upheld a lower court order for the company to reimburse the Colville tribe $8.25 million — $3.39 million the tribe paid to investigate the river’s pollution, plus $4.86 million in attorney fees and costs. The company must also pay $344,300 in prejudgment interest, bringing the total to nearly $8.6 million. Continue Reading →

Clean Coal Is Not a Joke: There’s nothing clean about coal and nothing funny about its impacts – by Natasha Geiling (Sierra – September 25, 2018)

When Donald Trump rambles on about “clean coal,” he never mentions the parts of coal that aren’t very clean. He doesn’t talk about coal’s toxic byproducts that are found in its ash, its dust, and its smoke. And he doesn’t talk about the potential health impacts for the people who live near mines, power plants, and shipping terminals.

Such coal-related health threats are familiar to homeowners near Charlotte, North Carolina, who went more than 1,000 days on bottled water because of suspected coal ash contamination in their tap water. The health risks are familiar to residents in Norfolk, Virginia, who have to contend with coal dust on their homes and gardens from the trains that rumble into the largest coal export terminal in the Northern Hemisphere.

The dangers of coal are familiar to the Appalachian communities beset with air and water pollution from mountaintop-removal mining that carves the tops off of mountains and dumps the remnants into streams. Continue Reading →

[Nova Scotia mining] Gold mining’s toxic legacy raises concerns about Eastern Shore project – by Frances Willick (CBC News Nova Scotia – September 23, 2018)

A proposed gold mine on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore has dredged up concerns about mercury and arsenic contamination in the area from 125 years ago. Toronto-based Anaconda Mining Inc. wants to develop a 125-hectare surface and underground mine just outside Goldboro, N.S., about 250 kilometres east of Halifax.

The company submitted its environmental assessment last month, and on Sept. 19, Environment Minister Margaret Miller said it was not detailed enough for her to make a decision whether to approve the project.

Public and government feedback on the project shows that some are worried the mine’s activities will disturb sites contaminated by gold mining as far back as 1893. Continue Reading →

Imperial Metals explores sale of company amid financial restructuring – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – September 18, 2018)

Troubled junior copper producer Imperial Metals Corp. has kicked off a strategic review that may result in the sale of the company as it struggles under a mountain of debt.

In a Monday release, Imperial Metals said it will also consider selling assets piecemeal, entering into joint ventures or recapitalizing the company.

The Vancouver-based company, backed by well-known energy executive Murray Edwards, says it has taken a number of steps that give it financial breathing room in the short term. With a market capitalization of just $134-million, it has a debt load of roughly $857-million and a cash balance of $16-million as of the end of the second quarter. Continue Reading →

Chilean environmentalists fight to protect glaciers from mining dust (Agence France Presse – August 31, 2018)

Chile is home to four-fifths of South America’s glaciers and has some of the largest ice fields in the world outside the polar regions, but they are coming under threat from mining industry dust.

Climatologist Fabrice Lambert from Chile’s Catholic University believes that the country’s 24,114 glaciers are in danger from mining activity, although the direct cause and effect are hard to establish.

“The dust generated by mining can settle on the glaciers, covering the white surface so the particles absorb solar energy that results in rapid glacial melting,” Lambert told AFP. It’s a problem because “some glaciers in Chile are close to mines,” he says. Continue Reading →

From the deforestation of the Peruvian Amazon to a ‘lake of toxic sludge’ in China: How building a smartphone devastates planet Earth – by Patrick Byrne and Karen Hudson-Edwards) Daily Mail/The Conversation – August 29, 2018)

Dr Patrick Byrne is a researcher at Liverpool John Moores University, and Karen Hudson-Edwards is a scientist at the University of Exeter.

Nearly five billion people worldwide will use a smartphone by 2020. Each device is made up of numerous precious metals and many of the key technological features wouldn’t be possible without them.

Some, like gold, will be familiar. Others, such as terbium, are less well-known. Mining these metals is a vital activity that underpins the modern global economy.

But the environmental cost can be enormous and is probably far greater than you realise. Let’s walk through some of the key metals in smartphones, what they do, and the environmental cost of getting them out of the ground. Continue Reading →

B.C. could see more dam failures like Mount Polley without better regulation, report says (CBC News British Columbia – August 28, 2018)

Research predicts 2 dam failures every 10 years

A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is warning that B.C. could see more disasters like the Mount Polley dam collapse if regulations around mining remain unchanged.

According to the report, co-published by the Corporate Mapping Project, the Wilderness Committee and Brazil-based PoEMAS, there could be as many as two dam failures every 10 years.

On Aug. 4, 2014, the Mount Polley mine’s tailings dam broke, sending 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into nearby lakes and rivers. Continue Reading →

Brazil’s Samarco mine unlikely to restart in 2019: BHP – by Marta Nogueira and Brad Haynes (Reuters U.S. – August 21, 2018)

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – There is little likelihood that Brazil’s Samarco iron ore mine, a joint venture between Vale SA and BHP Billiton, will restart operations next year even though it expects to have all of the required licenses, a BHP spokesman said on Tuesday.

The statement confirmed comments made by another BHP official, Bryan Quinn, in an interview with newspaper Valor Economico.

Quinn, an executive in charge of the company’s mineral joint ventures, told Reuters in a separate interview that restarting operations at the disaster-struck mine depends on an agreement with prosecutors on building a new tailing dam system. Continue Reading →

New technology from Finland will clear the smog in Nikel – by Thomas Nilsen (The Barents Observer – August 20, 2018)

New equipment for mineral processing has arrived to Zapolyarny, where Nornickel’s subsidiary Kola Mining and metallurgical Company’s concentrator plant is located. The equipment is made by Outotec in Finland and includes processing technology for filtration, thickening, flotation and analyzer equipment.

When is full operation, the new technology will make it possible to separate rich quality materials from ore with less nickel. By separating out the nickel-rich concentrates, much of the sulfur will be removed before shipped to the smelter in the town of Nikel.

Consequently, the emission of sulfur dioxide (SO2) will be reduced substantially. The run-down plant in Nikel has for decades been a torn in cross-border relation in the Barents Region as the pollution hits neighboring Norway and Finland as well as the fragile taiga-forest on Russia’s own Kola Peninsula. Continue Reading →

BHP settles US class action over Samarco dam failure for $67 million – by Darren Gray (Sydney Morning Herald – August 9, 2018)

Mining giant BHP has agreed to settle a US class action claim relating to the Samarco dam failure of 2015, which triggered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, and agreed to pay the plaintiffs $US50 million ($67.3 million).

The agreement comes with no admission of liability. It remains subject to approval by a US court. Melbourne-based lawyers acting for BHP investors in an Australian class action against the miner over the dam failure are watching the US legal developments with interest.

Brett Spiegel, a lawyer for the Melbourne-based law firm Phi, Finney, McDonald which filed the Australian class action in May in the Federal Court, welcomed the news from the US. Continue Reading →

It’s time to put a price on the risk of mining disasters – by Christopher Ragan (Globe and Mail – August 3, 2018)

Christopher Ragan is an economist and director of McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy. He is also chair of the Ecofiscal Commission.

Four years ago, the Mount Polley disaster reminded us that mining comes with risks. On Aug. 4, 2014, a tailings dam at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper and gold mine ruptured, spilling 24 million cubic metres of water and tailings into several lakes and rivers in British Columbia’s Interior. It was the largest tailings-dam rupture in Canadian history.

The best way to minimize the hazards of mining isn’t simply to reject every mining project. The resource sector is an important part of the Canadian economy and mining firms already take risk management seriously. Events such as Mount Polley are the exception, not the rule.

But we can do more to manage risk to help ensure taxpayers don’t end up paying for disaster cleanups. For one thing, governments could put a price on the inherent dangers of mining. Continue Reading →

U.S. officials accuse Canada of sitting on damning data on B.C. mining toxins in a transboundary river – by Bob Weber (Canadian Press/Global News – July 8, 2018)

United States officials are accusing their Canadian counterparts of sitting on damning new data about toxic chemicals from southern British Columbia coal mines in water shared by both countries.

In a letter to the U.S. State Department, Americans on the International Joint Commission say Canadian members are blocking the release of information on contaminants that are many times above guideline levels. The commission was created in 1909 as a way to discuss water that crosses the U.S.-Canada border.

The B.C. dispute, brewing for decades, burst open in June when the commission’s two Canadian members refused to endorse a report on selenium in the Elk River watershed just north of the border. Continue Reading →