Archive | Mining Environmental Accidents, Pollution and Abandoned Mines

Brazilian state cancels Vale licenses at two mines in wake of disaster – by Ana Mano and Christian Plumb (Reuters U.S. – February 6, 2019)

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais canceled Vale SA’s license to operate a dam at one of its largest mines, the company said on Wednesday, following the collapse of another dam in the state that killed an estimated 300 people.

Vale has come under intense public pressure since the Jan. 25 dam burst, with some politicians and prosecutors calling for criminal prosecution and a management shakeup, especially since it happened less than four years after another fatal dam burst in Minas Gerais.

Vale shares on Sao Paulo’s Bovespa exchange fell 4.9 percent to a seven-day low of 42.46 on Wednesday, while its U.S. traded ADRS slumped 6.2 percent. Continue Reading →

Surging Iron Ore Prices Will Hurt China’s Economy While Benefiting Australia And Brazil – by Jim Collins (Forbes Magazine – February 6, 2019)

As we enter the Year of the Pig in the Chinese calendar, the performance of iron ore has been, well, piggish of late. Coal and iron ore are the two key ingredients in the production of steel in the Bessemer process. As popular as Alibaba, Tencent’s WeChat, iQiyi and countless other Chinese apps may be, steel production is still the best determinant of the health of the Chinese economy.

Chinese government estimates place 2018 steel output at 923 million tonnes, an 11% increase over 2017’s figure. October’s output of 82.552 million tonnes reflected an all-time record for the Chinese economy.

So, all those out-of-context, sentiment-based data points that seem to be showing a slowdown in the Chinese economy–PMI data for example–really are giving a false positive for the all-important “China’s economy is slowing” narrative that so many market observers in the U.S. love to push. Continue Reading →

RPT-COLUMN-Vale disaster makes miners’ image problem worse – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – February 6, 2019)

CAPE TOWN, Feb 6 (Reuters) – The response to the horrendous dam collapse at a mine owned by Brazil’s Vale has focused on iron ore prices and how a disaster that will likely claim more than 300 lives occurred, and what must be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

These are valid concerns, but the risk of focusing on the immediate issues is that the much larger problems of the mining industry are once again glossed over. Namely that miners aren’t trusted and suffer from a serious image problem.

It may seem somewhat trivial to talk about image in the face of such a human tragedy, but mining’s poor image across a range of stakeholders is the major issue for the industry. Continue Reading →

Vale Iron-Ore Mine Halt Risks `Incremental Supply Shock’ – by R.T. Watson (Bloomberg News – February 4, 2019)

Vale SA said it’s temporarily halting some operations at its Brucutu mine, potentially causing a production loss of about 30 million metric tons of iron ore a year — a move that an analyst said could cause “incremental supply shock.” Iron ore in Singapore climbed.

The move is in compliance with a Brazilian court order issued to help improve safety after one of Vale’s tailings dam in Minas Gerais state collapsed in late January, killing more than 130 people and leveling part of a town.

The output cut is on top of the planned 40 million ton curbs that the company will implement as it decommissions dams similar to the one involved in the fatal accident. Continue Reading →

Brazil Dam Catastrophe Sounds Alarm for U.S. Waste Ponds (Bloomberg Environment – February 4, 2019)

A mining dam failure similar to the one that killed more than 100 people in Brazil could happen in the U.S., according to a mine engineer who consults with the government.

At the root of the risk is a quilt of differing state regulations, sloppy dam construction, lax maintenance, neglect of decades-old dams that are wrongly assumed to be stable, and stronger storms dumping water into dams that weren’t designed to handle the weight, said James Kuipers, who consults with the Environmental Protection Agency and state governments on tailings dams, which hold mining waste.

“It can happen here,” Kuipers told Bloomberg Environment. But the industry says tailings dams in the U.S. are safer than they’ve ever been, thanks to advances in technology and design. Continue Reading →

Sudbury column: Who pays the bill for Ontario’s abandoned mines? – by John Gunn (Sudbury Star – February 2, 2019)

Note: This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

John Gunn is the Canada Research Chair in Stressed Aquatic Systems, Laurentian University.

The fate of abandoned mines are a familiar problem for those living in communal spaces, with common rooms and shared kitchens: “Who is going to clean up this mess?” and “Who is going to pay for the damages?”

Public lands have the same problem when people dump trash in the bush to avoid paying landfill fees. But cleaning up industrial brownfields, like the mercury-laden sediments in the English-Wabigoon River near Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario, is a far bigger problem than collecting litter.

We are beginning to see some changes. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that bankrupt oil and gas companies must meet their environmental commitments before they pay off their creditors. Continue Reading →

How Brazil’s mining tragedy could shake up Australia’s iron ore market – by Kylie Purcell (Your Money – February 1, 2019)

Your Money

Australia’s mining sector saw enormous financial gains this week – but it follows a tragedy that raises serious questions about the operations being run by some of the world’s most powerful mining corporations.

Shares in Australia’s iron ore sector surged Wednesday after news that Vale, the world’s biggest iron ore producer, would close some operations following a dam collapse in Brumadinho that left more than 100 dead and hundreds more missing.

Should the death toll increase, the catastrophe could mark Brazil’s deadliest ever mining accident and the country’s second iron ore mining disaster in recent years. Continue Reading →

Brazil’s Vale knew of risk to area hit by deadly mine disaster: Folha de S.Paulo (Reuters U.S. – February 1, 2019)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s Vale (VALE3.SA) knew as recently as last year that some of the areas hit by last week’s deadly mining disaster were at risk if its tailings dam burst, according to an internal Vale study published by a local newspaper on Friday.

The study seen by newspaper Folha de S.Paulo represents a fresh embarrassment for the world’s largest iron ore miner, which has come under intense pressure over the burst tailings dam at its Corrego do Feijao mine last Friday.

With 110 people confirmed dead and another 238 missing, according to a firefighters’ count on Thursday evening, the tailings dam collapse in the town of Brumadinho could be Brazil’s deadliest mine disaster. Continue Reading →

Brazil’s Costly Mining Failures Tied to Cheap Waste Storage – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – January 31, 2019)

The deadly collapse of a Vale SA tailings dam in Brazil is serving as a wake-up call for an industry that regularly cuts costs by storing mining waste in the cheapest possible way.

The slurry of ground rock and effluents left over after companies extract marketable minerals from the ground has been stored for decades in massive ponds held back by embankments or dams. Their safety, though, depends very much on the design of the ponds, and on the cost of building them.

The Vale SA dam that collapsed in Brazil last week, and a previous dam that failed there three years earlier, were both built on the go using the “upstream” method, typically the cheapest by far. Under that technique, the wall containing the pond is primarily constructed of tailings, and it’s designed to grow as more effluents are pumped in. A costlier method pre-builds the walls and insulates them. Continue Reading →

Anger persists after Vale vows to make amends for Brazil dam disaster – by Gram Slattery (Reuters U.S. – January 31, 2019)

BRUMADINHO, Brazil (Reuters) – Residents of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais reacted with indifference and in many cases anger at a series of measures miner Vale SA has pledged to adopt following last week’s dam burst that almost certainly killed over 300 people.

“Too Late” read the newspaper of record here, O Estado de Minas, after Vale, the world’s largest iron ore miner, said it would take up to 10 percent of its production offline and spend 5 billion reais ($1.36 billion) to decommission 10 dams like the one that collapsed at its Corrego do Feijao mine last Friday.

With some 99 people confirmed dead and another 250 missing, according to firefighters, the tailings dam collapse in the town of Brumadinho may be Brazil’s deadliest-ever mine disaster. Continue Reading →

Iron Ore Rockets as Vale’s Supply Disruption Convulses Market – by Krystal Chia (Bloomberg/Yahoo – Janaury 30, 2019)

(Bloomberg) — The global iron ore market was pitched into turmoil after Brazil’s Vale SA, the world’s largest producer, outlined plans to cut output after a deadly dam breach, buoying shares of rivals as investors weighed the impact of the disruption. Prices soared, with futures rallying more than 9 percent.

Vale will decommission some tailings dams, curbing production by 40 million tons a year, Chief Executive Officer Fabio Schvartsman said at a press conference, citing a plan presented to the Energy and Environment Ministries. The impact will be partially offset by an increase in production from other systems, Vale said. The company had planned to mine 400 million tons this year.

The severity of the fallout will hinge on Vale’s ability, as well as efforts by other miners, to make up the tons that’ll be lost. A sharp reduction in supply, if that happens, would tighten the global seaborne market, aiding Rio Tinto Group, BHP Group and Anglo American Plc, while lifting costs for steelmakers across the globe. Continue Reading →

‘Brazil learned nothing’: Another deadly dam collapse raises questions about Bolsonaro’s plans to expand mining – by Stephanie Nolen (Globe and Mail – January 30, 2019)

In November 2015, Brazil experienced a deadly dam collapse at the Samarco mine in Mariana. Nothing was done. Three-and-a-half years later, after another deadly dam collapse, questions remain around regulations for the mining industry

A month after a tailings dam collapsed and killed 19 people in the Brazilian town of Mariana in November, 2015, the legislature in the state of Minas Gerais gathered to consider new mining legislation.

Congress members meeting 100 kilometres from the site of the disaster at the Samarco mine voted to reduce the role given to the Ministerio Publico, a government agency that typically advocates for environmental, Indigenous and public-safety considerations, in approving new mining projects. Continue Reading →

Vale’s Brazil disaster to prompt buyers to take more Australian iron ore – by Melanie Burton and Muyu Xu (Reuters U.S. – January 30, 2019)

MELBOURNE/BEIJING (Reuters) – Vale SA’s catastrophic dam failure in Brazil may knock it off its perch as the biggest iron ore exporter as the resulting rally in high-grade ore prices steers buyers towards rivals offering cheaper ore, industry sources said on Wednesday.

The world’s largest iron ore miner is facing public ire and tougher regulation after the collapse of its tailings dam in the Brazilian region of Brumadinho killed at least 84 in one of the country’s worst ever industrial disasters. Hundreds are still missing and presumed dead.

Vale on Tuesday said it would take up to 10 percent of its output offline as it decommissions a total of 19 dams over three years, a move that would cut up to 40 million tonnes of iron ore production a year. Continue Reading →

Vale to cut output, shut down dams after Brazil disaster – by Jake Spring and Gram Slattery (Reuters U.S. – January 29, 2019)

BRASILIA/BRUMADINHO, Brazil (Reuters) – Vale SA (VALE3.SA), the world’s largest iron ore miner, on Tuesday vowed to take as much as 10 percent of its ore output offline in order to decommission 10 more dams like the one that burst last week, killing scores of workers and nearby residents.

Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman said it would temporarily paralyze operations using those dams and spend 5 billion reais ($1.3 billion) to decommission them over the next three years.

The move came as prosecutors began arresting Vale executives over the Friday collapse of a tailings dam in the Brazilian town of Brumadinho, which was hit by a torrent of mining waste that killed at least 84 people and left hundreds more missing. Continue Reading →

Brazil eyes management overhaul for Vale after dam disaster – by Gram Slattery (Reuters U.S. – January 28, 2019)

BRUMADINHO, Brazil (Reuters) – Brazil’s government weighed pushing for a management overhaul at iron ore miner Vale SA on Monday as grief over the hundreds feared killed by a dam burst turned into anger, with prosecutors, politicians and victims’ families calling for punishment.

By Monday night, firefighters in the state of Minas Gerais had confirmed that 65 people were killed by Friday’s disaster, when a burst tailings dam sent a torrent of sludge into the miner’s offices and the town of Brumadinho.

There were still 279 people unaccounted for, and officials said it was unlikely that any would be found alive. Brazil’s acting president, Hamilton Mourao, told reporters a government task force on the disaster response is looking at whether it could or should change Vale’s top management. Continue Reading →