Archive | Mining Environmental Accidents, Pollution and Abandoned Mines

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

https://www.smh.com.au/

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)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

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)

https://globalnews.ca/

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 →

Samarco could reach partial deal with Brazil prosecutors on Monday – by Marta Nogueira (Reuters U.S. – June 25, 2018)

https://www.reuters.com/

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Samarco, a joint venture between Brazilian miner Vale and Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, could reach the second phase of a settlement with Brazilian prosecutors over a 2015 environmental disaster on Monday, a federal prosecutor said.

The mining disaster, Brazil’s worst on record, was caused by the bursting of a tailings dam and killed 19 people. Samarco’s operations have been suspended since then.

“This deal we are negotiating is aimed at perfecting the governance system of (a prior agreement), creating reports and damage assessments and empowering those affected,” Brazil’s federal prosecutor for the case José Adércio Sampaio said, without offering details. Continue Reading →

WA could cop $500 million rehab bill if Chinese abandoned mine: Mineralogy – by Emma Young (Western Australia Today – June 12, 2018)

https://www.watoday.com.au/

Chinese-owned mining companies could skip a $529 million bill for environmental damage caused by an iron ore mining project in Cape Preston, in WA’s Pilbara, a report from Clive Palmer’s mining company Mineralogy has found.

Mr Palmer signalled “urgent legal action” in the WA Supreme Court to halt mining at the Sino Iron and Korean Steel projects until environmental obligations were met.

Mineralogy was to act as trustee of the $529 million fund to ensure the site could be restored at the end of the mine’s estimated 25-year life. But it has commissioned from mining rehabilitation expert Mike Slight that it says confirms rehabilitation funds have gone unpaid. Continue Reading →

How an Environmental Disaster Changed Brazil’s Mining Industry – by R.T. Watson (Bloomberg News – June 6, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The future of some of the world’s biggest mining operations remains mired in uncertainty after a fatal dam spill helped transform Brazil’s relatively light corporate scrutiny into a legal minefield.

The 2015 disaster at the Samarco iron-ore mine, which left 19 dead, precipitated a cascade of legal issues and challenges for the still-shut venture owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd.

Mining’s reputation in Brazil was further tarnished this year when an alleged waste-water leak at the world’s largest alumina refinery, owned by Oslo-based Norsk Hydro ASA, led to a court-ordered 50 percent production curtailment. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: CLEAN AER PROJECT NEARS COMPLETION AS TWO NEW STACKS EMERGE FROM VALE’S COPPER CLIFF SMELTER COMPLEX

SUDBURY, June 5, 2018 – Residents of Greater Sudbury may have noticed that the plume from Vale’s iconic Superstack has been much less frequent lately and that two new stacks are now emerging from the company’s Copper Cliff Smelter Complex.

Although the Smelter is in full production, a new Wet Gas Cleaning Plant has been commissioned and is capturing process gases and sulphur dioxide emissions previously emitted by the Superstack.

“The commissioning of the Wet Gas Cleaning Plant and construction of two new stacks signals that we are nearing completion of our Clean AER Project,” said Dave Stefanuto, Vice President of North Atlantic Projects and Base Metals Technology. “This historic milestone reflects years of dedicated effort from both our project and operations teams and is something all of us at Vale and in the City of Greater Sudbury can be proud of as we significantly reduce our environmental footprint in the community.” Continue Reading →

Giant Waste-Spewing Mine Turns Into a Battleground in Indonesia – by Danielle Bochove and David Stringer (Bloomberg News – June 5, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Every year, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. dumps tens of millions of tons of mining waste into the Ajkwa River system in Indonesia. The company has been doing it for decades, and is demanding the right to keep at it for decades to come.

The discharge of what are called tailings, the leftovers of mineral extraction, is perfectly legal under Freeport’s current contract with the government. But recently, after more than a year of tense negotiations over the terms of a new deal, Indonesia suddenly changed the rules: The Grasberg mine in the highlands of Papua province would have to operate by heightened standards.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really, considering most every other miner in the world has been forced or has elected to stop discarding tailings in rivers. Continue Reading →

Alaska lawmakers call for alliance with other states on Canadian mining issues – by Kevin Gullufsen (Juneau Empire – May 28, 2018)

http://juneauempire.com/

10 legislators call for partnership as Montana, Washington deal with pollution from Canadian mines

A group of Alaska lawmakers wants to team up with Montana and other U.S.-Canada border states in a push to protect Southeast watersheds they say are threatened by rapid Canadian mining development.

In a letter dated April 20 and released Friday, 10 lawmakers ask Gov. Bill Walker to work with other U.S. states and the State Department to further protections for Southeast’s salmon-bearing rivers. Canadian mining development, they say, has continued to put the region’s fishing and tourism industries in peril.

At least a dozen mining projects are moving forward or are operating in the border-crossing Taku, Stikine and Unuk river watersheds, according to Salmon Beyond Borders. Alaska lacks financial protection from any harm the projects could cause to salmon habitat, the lawmakers say. Continue Reading →

Canada’s mining industry learned from Mount Polley tailings dam disaster – by Pierre Gratton (Vancouver Sun – May 23, 2018)

http://vancouversun.com/

Pierre Gratton is President & CEO of The Mining Association of Canada.

I was pleased to read the column by Jacinda Mack and Loretta Williams in which they acknowledge the vital role minerals and metals will play in the transition to a low carbon economy.

B.C. products like metallurgical coal, copper and molybdenum are all critical to the supply of renewable energy technologies and zero-emission vehicles. B.C. and the rest of Canada’s mining sector have every reason to be a major, responsible supplier of these products to the world.

I also agree with their sentiment that there is an obligation on B.C.’s mining sector to provide these products responsibly. They call for stronger regulation of mines and for the adoption of industry standards, such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, or IRMA. Here is where I can provide some important additional information on both topics. Continue Reading →

Pollution studies cast doubt on China’s electric-car policies – by Charles Clover (Financial Times – May 20, 2018)

https://www.ft.com/

The environmental case for electric vehicles in China has been complicated by research that asserts the cars produce more pollution than those with internal combustion engines.

The issue is likely to raise questions about China’s push to become the world’s EV champion by 2025. The government has justified devoting massive resources to encouraging domestic EV production — including billions of dollars in subsidies and production quotas — based on the proposition they are greener than petrol-engine cars.

But the environmental benefits were unclear, experts said. While China has been on a green energy push for years, coal still accounts for an overwhelming proportion of electricity production, meaning that charging electric batteries also burns carbon — often at a higher per-kilometre rate than petrol engines. Continue Reading →

Time for mining to clean up its act – by Jacinda Mack and Loretta Williams (Vancouver Sun – May 16, 2018)

http://vancouversun.com/

Jacinda Mack is co-founder of Stand for Water, a project of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM). Loretta Williams is chair of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining.

We are told that B.C.’s natural resources can play a key role in the global transition to a low-carbon future. From clean-energy cars and wind turbines that require copper, steelmaking coal and molybdenum, to silver and selenium for solar cells; it is said that the province has the potential to be a leader in clean-energy mining.

But supplying the essential ingredients for green energy is at risk, unless B.C. mining laws can enforce practices that uphold First Nations rights and the environment. Sadly, that’s not the case, and hasn’t been, since the first B.C. gold rush nearly 170 years ago.

First Nations’ experience of mining in B.C. has been negative from the outset. The Mount Polley tailings-dam disaster in 2014 was simply the latest in a history of destruction and misery caused by generations of badly regulated mining operations, an outdated Mines Act and the province’s failure to live up to its commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Continue Reading →

BHP Billiton to be sued by investors over dam collapse that caused Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster – by Ben Chapman (Independent – May 16, 2018)

https://www.independent.co.uk/

BHP Billiton faces legal action from shareholders who say the mining giant misled them over safety measures at a dam in Brazil which broke, killing 19 people and causing Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster.

When the Fundão dam broke in 2015, waste from an iron ore mine operated by Samarco, a joint venture between BHP and its partner Vale, devastated the local area in Minas Gerais state.

A red wave of clay, sand and water polluted miles of river, killing aquatic life, leaving hundreds of people homeless, and flowing out to sea. Australian law firm Phi Finney McDonald now plans to sue the multinational, which is listed on stock markets in London, Sydney and Johannesburg, on behalf of investors. Continue Reading →

‘The river is dead’: is a mine polluting the water of Brazil’s Xikrin tribe? – by Naira Hofmeister and José Cícero da Silva (The Guardian – May 15, 2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/

Federal courts are battling to shut down a nickel mining plant said to be contaminating the Cateté river – a charge the company denies

The Xikrin, who have lived alongside the Cateté river in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil for centuries, have a mantra: “The river is our life.” Surrounded by an abundance of plant species, they swim and bathe here.

To fish, the tribe use timbó, a toxic vine that reduces the concentration of oxygen in the water, forcing the fish to come to the surface, where they are shot with arrows. “If we use hooks to fish, only one of our families will eat fish,” explains former tribal chief Onkray Xikrin. “But with timbó the whole village can eat.”

But the River Cateté is dying, and with it the way of life of the Xikrin. In 2010 Mineração Onça Puma, a company owned by the mining company Vale, began extracting nickel in the nearby hills, which have tributaries flowing into the Cateté. Vale is one of the world’s largest producers of nickel. Continue Reading →

Left in limbo in Pickle Lake: Old mine waste issues continue to stall development in northwestern Ontario community – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – May 11, 2018)

https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/

The Township of Pickle Lake is impatiently waiting for answers from Queen’s Park on what to do with a four-decades-old environmental legacy issue that’s hampering local development.

The presence of arsenic in surface tailings at the former Central Patricia mine site has the northwestern Ontario community in a long-running standoff with three provincial ministries. The mine site is located within the community and just off the highway that courses through town and runs north to service remote First Nation communities and Goldcorp’s Musselwhite Mine.

The tailings are spread over multiple places on the property, which ceased mining in 1954. Until mine closure plans were imposed by the province in the early 1990s, companies could walk away and leave their mess behind with no obligations. Continue Reading →