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

‘Deal with the disaster’: the girl from Bougainville who grew up to take on a mining giant – by Leanne Jorari and Ben Doherty (The Guardian – October 16, 2020)

For all of Theonila Roka Matbob’s three decades, the scar on her land that was once the world’s largest copper mine has cast a pall.

The Panguna mine in Bougainville, eastern Papua New Guinea, has not yielded a single ounce in her lifetime – forced shut the year before Matbob was born – but she grew up in the shadow of the violent civil war it provoked.

When she was just three years old, her father, John Roka, was murdered by the secessionist soldiers who had forced the mine to close. Spending years in a “care centre” run by the PNG defence force, she remembers a childhood dominated by an all-pervasive fear, where the sound of gunshots regularly rang out across the valley, where neighbours disappeared from their homes, their bodies later found slaughtered. Continue Reading →

Goldmining having big impact on indigenous Amazon communities – by Dom Phillips (The Guardian – October 7, 2020)

A new report has exposed the scale and impact of mining on indigenous reserves in Amazon countries as gold prices soared during the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 20% of indigenous lands are overlapped by mining concessions and illegal mining, it found, covering 450,000 sq km (174,000 sq miles) – and 31% of Amazon indigenous reserves are affected.

The report, released on Wednesday by the World Resources Institute, said indigenous people should be given more legal rights to manage and use their lands, and called for better environmental safeguards. Continue Reading →

Can mineral extraction ever be environmentally acceptable? – by David Jessop (Virgin Islands Daily News – October 4, 2020)

In August, the price of gold reached a record high of $2,073 per ounce. It did so as investors concerned about the impact of COVID-19, global economic instability, and falling bond yields, decided it was a safe haven.

Coincidentally, the spike occurred as Guyana’s Stabroek News published an investigative report in collaboration with InfoAmazonia and media partners in Brazil and Venezuela which described how a significant part of the Republic’s informal gold production is trafficked abroad.

A few weeks later InfoAmazonia published a more detailed account. “Tracing Tainted Gold,” described how across the Guiana Shield, mercury trafficking networks are enabling gold produced by small miners to be laundered; how it is moving across uncontrolled borders and through the region’s ports; suggesting that it is entering legitimate global supply chains, and possibly ending up in products made by some of the world’s biggest corporations. Continue Reading →

Another smoggy Sunday in the town with factories owned by Russia’s richest man – by Thomas Nilsen (The Barents Observer – October 4, 2020)

People driving the Kola highway have seen it before. Like in late July when kilometers and kilometers of the nature west of the nickel and copper smelters were covered by smog containing sulfur dioxide and heavy metals.

A week later, the leaves on the few still-alive trees in the lunar landscape started to brown. On Sunday, October 4th, the sulfur gasses were again blowing over the Arctic landscape, a video posted by Navalny’s office in Murmansk shows.

After Nornickel closed its nickel refining factory in Norilsk a few years ago, all refining now takes place in Monchegorsk, a two hours’ drive south of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. Continue Reading →

Tesla to meet with Indigenous activists as it plots future supply chain – by Jacob Holzman (SP Global – September 30, 2020)

Tesla Inc. will meet with a network of Russian Indigenous activists campaigning for the electric vehicle company to boycott nickel supplied by PJSC Norilsk Nickel Co., the world’s largest producer of high-grade nickel, according to one of the activists involved with the campaign.

Pavel Sulyandziga, president of Indigenous rights group Batani Foundation, told S&P Global Market Intelligence through an interpreter that advocates with the boycott campaign are scheduled to speak with Tesla representatives involved with corporate social responsibility on Oct. 7.

Sulyandziga said the group plans to reiterate a request made in an open letter released in early August that Tesla not engage with Norilsk Nickel, also known as NorNickel, which is facing billions in damages over major oil spills in the Arctic. Continue Reading →

3 decommissioned uranium mines near Bancroft, Ont. deemed protected, no health impacts: study – by Greg Davis (Global News – September 29, 2020)

A study says three decommissioned uranium sites near Bancroft, Ont., are protected and pose no health impacts on residents.

In 2019 the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) launched an independent environmental monitoring program in the Bancroft area, focusing on the Dyno, Madawaska and Bicroft decommissioned uranium mine sites. Each site processed low-grad uranium ore which left behind tailings — waste generated by the mining and milling of uranium ore.

The commission is licensed to manage the three sites, which are under long-term monitoring and maintenance. The three sites were remediated in the 1980s and 1990s. Continue Reading →

Attawapiskat First Nation challenges DeBeers’ proposal for third landfill site (CBC News Sudbury – October 1, 2020)

DeBeers Canada is decommissioning the Victor Diamond Mine

Attawapiskat First Nation says it’s challenging the construction of another proposed landfill site near the community.

The site would be located about 90 kilometers west of the community and would process demolition waste from the Victor Diamond Mine, which is being decommissioned. It would be the third landfill managed by DeBeers Canada, the company that owns and operates the mine.

Attawapiskat has hired environmental consultant Don Richardson who says the 100,000 cubic metre landfill would be quite large. “The total amount of concrete of the CN Tower is probably about 45,000 cubic metres,” said Richardson. “So you could stick two CN Towers in this facility. It’s not a small landfill.” Continue Reading →

A brutal war and rivers poisoned with every rainfall: how one mine destroyed an island – by Matthew G. Allen (The Conversation – September 30, 2020)

Matthew G. Allen is a Professor of Development Studies at The University of the South Pacific.

This week, 156 people from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in Papua New Guinea, petitioned the Australian government to investigate Rio Tinto over a copper mine that devastated their homeland.

In 1988, disputes around the notorious Panguna mine sparked a lengthy civil war in Bougainville, leading to the deaths of up to 20,000 people. The war is long over and the mine has been closed for 30 years, but its brutal legacy continues.

When I conducted research in Bougainville in 2015, I estimated the deposit of the mine’s waste rock (tailings) downstream from the mine to be at least a kilometre wide at its greatest point. Local residents informed me it was tens of metres deep in places. Continue Reading →

How Nornickel Became the Arctic’s Biggest Polluter (VTimes/Moscow Times – September 28, 2020)

One Russian company releases more sulfur dioxide into the air than the whole of the U.S.

Ecologists often joke that Europe owes its clean skies to the dirty sky of Norilsk — and there’s more than a shred of truth in this assertion.

The Nornickel mining and metallurgical company supplies metals to 37 countries, where they are used in the production of electric cars, electricity stations and solar panels.

But in the process of extracting all these environmentally valuable metals, Nornickel systemically pollutes the surrounding nature with sulfur dioxide (SO2). Toxic in high doses, this gas causes choking, coughing, pulmonary edema, and (according to the WHO) increases the frequency of respiratory tract diseases. Continue Reading →

Rio Tinto hit with human rights claims over Bougainville mine (Agence France-Presse/Jakarta Post – September 29, 2020)

Rio Tinto is facing accusations it “side-stepped” responsibility to clean up poisonous waste from a closed mine on Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville island in a complaint filed Tuesday in Australia.

The complaint, lodged with Australian authorities by the Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre on behalf of more than 150 Bougainvilleans, heaps more pressure on the mining giant already under public attack for blowing up sacred Aboriginal sites.

It alleges the former Panguna copper and gold mine, which was at the center of a decade-long civil war in PNG, continues to leak waste into rivers more than three decades after it was shuttered. Continue Reading →

Electric Vehicles: The Dirty Nickel Problem – by Cliff Rice (Clean Technica – September 27, 2020)

“Certainly, electric vehicle manufactures cannot live up to their
professed good intentions of using “environmentally friendly”
nickel if that nickel comes from laterite deposits.”

Electric vehicles are only a small part of the world vehicle market, but this is expected to change. While there are several competing battery chemistries which are likely to be used in this emerging market, many of them contain significant amounts of nickel.

This is a problem, and to understand why it is a problem, we need to understand the basics of where nickel comes from. It gets a bit complicated.

Nickel is mined from two types of deposits — sulphide and laterite. Sulphide nickel occurs in hard rock that has formed from crystallization of magma with the proper conditions and chemistry. Continue Reading →

The Sudbury model: How one of the world’s major polluters went green – by Sara Miller Llana (The Christian Science Monitor – September 24, 2020)

When the Superstack was constructed in 1972, it was the tallest structure in Canada – and the tallest smokestack in the world. At 1,250 feet, it’s visible from every vantage point in the area. It can be seen from the bustling streets of downtown to the quiet cul-de-sacs of residential neighborhoods. It looms large in the distance from highways that feed into a city that is home to one of the largest mining complexes in the world.

Built by Canadian company Inco before it was purchased by Vale, the Superstack has long stood as a reminder of the environmental devastation that mining wrought here. But this year the chimney is being fully decommissioned.

Residents of Sudbury harbor mixed feelings about the Superstack. Some see it as a memorial to their rise as a center of nickel and copper mining globally. Others see it simply as a familiar landmark that signals they are home. Gisele Lavigne lives in the Copper Cliff neighborhood at the Superstack’s base. Continue Reading →

OPINION: New global standard on mine tailings management won’t prevent another Brumadinho – by Doug Morrison (Northern Ontario Business – September 22, 2020)

Doug Morrison is the president-CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) in Sudbury.

The mining industry’s ingrained culture of safety needs similar approach in dealing with mine waste solutions

In August, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) launched what it calls its new ‘Global Industry Standard on Mine Tailings,’ some 18 months after almost 300 people were killed by the catastrophic failure of a Vale iron ore tailings dam at Brumadinho in Brazil.

It is unlikely to be successful. The ICMM report is designed to improve operational control of the existing mine tailings management process and so reduce the consequences of another catastrophic failure.

Its members can take up to five years to implement the ‘Standard’ voluntarily, and the ICMM can only encourage non-member mines to adopt it. Continue Reading →

New technology to help clean and recycle Canada’s mining wastewater (Canadian Mining Journal – September 21, 2020)

As Canada looks to responsibly develop its mining and minerals industry as part of its economic recovery plan from the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has announced a $4.5-million investment in E2Metrix, to help mining operations recycle wastewater and operate more sustainably; Quebec-headquartered E2Metrix specializes in the treatment of wastewater.

Wastewater for mining operations can often contain pollutants and toxic chemicals. E2Metrix’s ECOTHOR technology aims to clean and separate contaminants, such as ammonia and heavy metals, from the wastewater.

According to the government’s release, this process is a more effective, energy-efficient and affordable way to reuse and recycle wastewater from mining operations and is expected to help companies improve water efficiency and reduce their impacts on fresh water. Continue Reading →

Russian Indigenous communities are begging Tesla not to get its nickel from this major polluter – by Maddie Stone ( – September 21, 2020)

Every year in August and September, the people of Ust’-Avam, a remote indigenous community located in the Taimyr region of the Russian Arctic, toss nets into the Avam River to catch tugunok fish, an important traditional food.

This year, the community stopped fishing early, around the start of the month. There were no tugunok to be found. Nor could locals find the fish at other common sites along the river basin fed by Lake Pyasino, which lies just a few miles north of the industrial city of Norilsk.

Gennady Shchukin, a member of the Dolgan ethnic group, has little doubt about the culprit: In late May, a reserve fuel tank at a power plant near Norilsk burst open, flooding local waterways with an estimated 23,000 tons of diesel oil. Continue Reading →