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

Church of England Pensions Board joins UN to conduct mine tailing storage review – by Sunniva Kolostyak (Pensions Age – March 28, 2019)

The Church of England Pensions Board and the AP Funds’ Ethics Council will represent the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in a co-convened independent review of the standard of tailings storage facilities.

The review is launched together with The International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to establish an international standard on the facilities.

The initiative comes as a response to the recent tragedy in Brumadinho, Brazil, where over 200 people died and a further 100 are missing, after Vale S.A’s tailing dam collapsed in January. Continue Reading →

Mining group works with U.N., ethical investors to tackle tailings (Reuters U.S. – March 27, 2019)

LONDON (Reuters) – A group bringing together the world’s biggest listed miners on Wednesday said it was working with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ethical investors to help agree a global standard for tailings dams.

The safety of dams used to store mining waste known as tailings became more high profile after the collapse of a Vale tailings dam in Brazil in January killed an estimated 300 people.

Vale and other major miners, including Rio Tinto, BHP and Glencore, are members of the industry body International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), which met in London on Wednesday to debate tailings safety. Continue Reading →

Century-old silver mines are long gone. But tainted tailings are still polluting Park City. Now the feds are suing to clean up the Superfund site. – by Nate Carlisle (Salt Lake Tribune – March 26, 2019)

What are now world-class ski runs used to be profitable mountainsides where 19th-century miners dug silver out of the dirt and mud.

The materials left over from that mining and processing are called tailings, and a lot of them were dumped into Silver Creek — the stream that runs from the south side of Park City northeast to Wanship. The federal government has had plans to clean up the tailings and the poisonous chemicals that come with them.

The plan has stalled, partly because United Park City Mines Co. hasn’t followed through on a 2014 agreement to scrub the biggest tailings site and owes the federal government for work that has been done, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court. The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a judge to order the mine company to pay what it owes and declare the company liable for future cleanup costs. Continue Reading →

Vale’s Sul Superior Dam in critical condition – by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud ( – March 23, 2019)

Brazilian mining giant Vale (NYSE:VALE) announced this weekend that the Sul Superior Dam at the Gongo Soco mine is in a critical condition when it comes to stability. This, following the work of an independent auditor, hired to evaluate the state of the structure.

The dam is located in the municipality of Barão de Cocais, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. This is the same region where, back in January 2019, a dam at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine collapsed killing hundreds and causing massive environmental destruction.

With the idea of avoiding a similar tragedy, the company launched a protocol to initiate level 3 of the Mining Dams Emergency Action Plan for Sul Superior, which is inactive and is scheduled to be decommissioned together with other nine dams. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Tug-of-war: China’s steel sector grapples short-term bulls, longer-term bears – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – March 21, 2019)

PERTH, March 21 (Reuters) – China’s steel sector, and the imported iron ore upon which it relies, are currently locked in a struggle between largely bearish longer-term structural factors and short-term cyclical influences, some of which are bullish.

It’s not unusual for an industry to grapple with competing narratives, but for China, which produces half the world’s steel and consumes two-thirds of seaborne iron ore, how the issues are resolved will have a flow-on effect through other parts of the economy, such as manufacturing, mining and construction.

The other impact of the tug-of-war of factors is likely to be volatility in prices as market participants try to reconcile the short-term drivers with the longer-term trends. Continue Reading →

Miner Vale quashed dam safety audit efforts before Brazil disaster: prosecutor (Reuters U.S. – March 20, 2019)

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Executives at Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, quashed efforts by Brazilian authorities to audit one of the company’s mining dams months before it collapsed and killed over 300 people, a state prosecutor was quoted as saying by news website G1 on Wednesday.

William Garcia, a prosecutor in Minas Gerais where the January disaster occurred, told G1 his office had filed subpoenas with Vale last June to review safety documents regarding Vale’s dam.

But Vale’s lawyers responded in November arguing they had received positive reviews of the dam by an auditor the firm had hired, the German firm Tuv Sud, Garcia said. Continue Reading →

EDITORIAL: Peterborough’s Innovation Cluster exemplifies ties that bind Canada, Brazil – by Examiner Staff (Peterborough Examiner – March 20, 2019)

Water purification technology born here is used to help disaster victims

Canada has a complicated history with Brazil. Much of our shared experience is written in the language of commerce and has been controversial to the point of bitterness. But those are big-picture issues.

Scale the focus down and, as often is the case, smaller relationships create space for support and compassion. Peterborough is now part of just such a story, a reminder that people with open minds and hearts can find ways to cross international boundaries.

This story began in January when a huge tailing pond dam at Brumadinho in south-west Brazil collapsed. A torrent of mud and waste water from an iron mine swept away an entire section of rural Brumadinho, population 40,000. At least 300 people died. Continue Reading →

Mining Companies Polluted Western Waters. Now Taxpayers Have to Pay for the Clean Up. – by Mark Olalde (Mother Jones – March 18, 2019)

“They took the heart of the mountains away from us.”

This story was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity.

The remnants of an abandoned gold and silver mine scar the Little Rocky Mountains just south of the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana, bleeding polluted orange water into streams that meander through the reservation. Warren Morin remembers drinking the once-pristine water while he was growing up in the 1970s. Now it’s so acidic it makes his skin burn and turn red on contact.

Pegasus Gold Corp., a Canadian company that owned that mine and several others in the state, went bankrupt and folded 20 years ago. That left a legacy of water pollution and a cleanup bill nearing $100 million—with no end in sight. “They took the heart of the mountains away from us,” said Morin, chair of the tribal council’s natural resources committee.

Pegasus isn’t an isolated case. Especially in the drought-prone West, the outdated and opaque regulatory system meant to ensure money is available to restore water and land at gold, copper and other hardrock mines often falls short. Continue Reading →

Brazil Court Orders Vale to Stop Operations at Another Mine – by Walter Brandimarte (Bloomberg News – March 17, 2019)

A Brazilian court ordered Vale SA to halt production at another of its iron ore mines, further reducing the company’s output capacity after a deadly dam burst increased government scrutiny over its operations.

The Timbopeba mine in Minas Gerais state produces 12.8 million tons of iron ore per year, Vale said in a statement, adding that it will comply with the court decision. The judge also ordered the company to stop using the Doutor dam that receives tailings from the mine. A fine of 500,000 reais ($131,000) per day will be imposed in case of disobedience.

Since the Brumadinho dam accident that left more than 300 people dead or missing on Jan. 25, Vale has also been ordered to stop operations at its Brucutu mine in the same state. Continue Reading →

Tanzania orders cleanup at Acacia gold mine, threatens closure – by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala (Reuters U.K. – March 7, 2019)

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Acacia Mining Plc must halt waste water pollution at its North Mara gold mine in Tanzania by March 30 or the facility will be shut down, the country’s mining minister said on Friday.

Doto Biteko said Acacia needs to stop contaminated water seeping from a waste storage dam at the mine to nearby communities in the country’s north.

“The life of even one Tanzanian is worth more than their gold mining activities,” Biteko told Reuters. Acacia Mining said it had stopped a temporary overspill at the mine, blaming vandals for destroying sections of the pipe it uses to move waste water. Continue Reading →

Australia’s Newcrest Mining takes 70 per cent stake in B.C. mine from Imperial Metals – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – March 11, 2019)

One of Australia’s largest miners is buying a majority interest in a B.C. mine from Imperial Metals Corp. for US$806-million, providing a cash injection for the struggling Vancouver company that is backed by billionaire executive Murray Edwards.

Melbourne-based Newcrest Mining Corp. struck a deal on the weekend for 70 per cent of Imperial’s Red Chris property, a mine that opened three years ago and last year produced 12,000 ounces of gold.

Imperial’s board has been conducting in a strategic review of the business as it tries to get out of financial trouble. In 2014, a catastrophic tailings dam failure forced Imperial to suspend operations at its Mount Polley copper-gold mine in British Columbia for almost a year. Imperial has also dealt with operating problems at Red Chris since it started production in 2015. Continue Reading →

Brazil minister calls Vale ‘important’ even as prosecutors probe miner – by Nichola Saminather (Reuters U.S. – March 5, 2019)

TORONTO (Reuters) – Brazil’s mining minister on Tuesday defended iron ore miner Vale SA as vital to the country’s economy, even after prosecutors accused the company of pressuring auditors to suppress evidence that its Brumadinho dam was unstable, months before the dam collapsed in January, killing hundreds.

Minister of Mines and Energy Bento Albuquerque said Vale executives are likely to learn from the disaster, which killed more than 300 and sparked an outcry for tighter mining regulations.

The January disaster was the second deadly burst in less than four years in Brazil at a Vale-controlled tailings dam, a type of dam that stores the muddy detritus of the mining process. Continue Reading →

Alternative technology and tailings dam disasters – by Jax Jacobsen (The Ecologist – March 2019)

Jax Jacobsen is a mining and energy journalist, and a regular contributor to Mining Magazine. She has also written for Canadian Institute of Mining Magazine, Natural Resources Magazine, the Montreal Gazette, and other publications. In 2013-2016, she was S&P Global’s Canadian mining correspondent.

Brazil witnessed its worst ever mining disaster earlier this year, after Vale’s tailing dam in the Brazilian town of Brumadinho in Minas Gerais collapsed without warning.

Estimates tag the number of deaths at 142, while nearly 200 remain missing. Hundreds were evacuated this week near the dam area of another mine in Minas Gerais as a precaution.

This tailings dam collapse comes less than four years after another devastating tailings mine disaster destroyed the town of Samarco, also in Brazil, also managed by Vale (though in a joint partnership with BHP). The Samarco tailings dam failure killed 19, and caused widespread environmental destruction through the state of Minas Gerais. Continue Reading →

Mining activists storm PDAC during sustainability talk (Mining Journal – March 4, 2019)

The mining industry is constantly striving to balance evolving stakeholder and shareholder expectations, but calamitous environmental disasters such as Vale’s latest tailings dam burst in Brazil, can massively set back those efforts.

It was therefore imperative for the industry to innovate and look at new ways to create stronger social contracts and pursue technological advances to ensure mines of the future achieve permitting and development, a PDAC 2019 panel session on sustainable mining practices heard this week.

“We need to start building mines we the people want to look at. We need to better strike a balance between growth and green imperatives,” Environmental Resources Management global head Louise Pearce said in Toronto.

The measured panel discussion stood in stark contrast to events outside the convention centre where Toronto-based nongovernmental organisation Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and MiningWatch Canada led a demonstration against Vale and the PDAC on Monday. The group wanted to draw attention to what they called “Vale’s crimes” and the “PDAC’s complicity”. Continue Reading →

Vale’s CEO, other executives, to step down after Brazil dam burst – by Marta Nogueira and Gram Slattery (Reuters U.S. – March3, 2019)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian iron ore miner Vale SA Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman and several other senior executives resigned on Saturday in what the company described as a temporary move, after one of its mining dams burst in January, killing hundreds.

Vale said Schvartsman offered his resignation, which the board “immediately accepted” after state and federal prosecutors recommended their removal late on Friday.

The move comes slightly over a month after a tailings dam broke at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao mine in the interior Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, likely killing over 300 people and releasing massive amounts of toxic sludge. Continue Reading →