Archive | Mining Environmental, Water Shortage and Land Reclamation/Revegetation Issues

A coal slurry shame – by Martin Wissmath (Hinton Parklander – November 18, 2013)

Sherritt International Corp., the company that owns the Obed mine 30 kilometres northeast of Hinton, could now be responsible for the largest coal mining waste-water spill in Canadian history.

But could government regulators and environmental authorities have done more to prevent it from happening?
A billion litres of slurry spilled into the Athabasca River on Halloween when a storage pond at the Obed mine site broke apart.

Slurry is the concoction of materials and chemicals, including coal and thickening agents called flocculents, mixed with the water in the mine storage ponds. Coal mines in Alberta are required to contain liquid runoff to prevent it from pouring into the provincial waterways. Consider this an epic fail.

A spokesperson for Sherritt initially told the Parklander the waste-water consisted of “naturally occurring” materials, but mentioned the extra chemical agents, which are standard for coal-mining storage ponds, after further inquiry.

The spill was innocuously labelled a “sediment release” by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Continue Reading →

UN climate chief urges coal industry to leave most remaining coal reserves untapped – by Monika Scislowska (The Associated Press/Vancouver Sun – November 18, 2013)

WARSAW, Poland – The U.N.’s chief climate diplomat on Monday urged the coal industry to diversify toward cleaner energy sources and leave most of the world’s remaining coal reserves in the ground.

On the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference, Christiana Figueres told dozens of CEOs of coal companies meeting at Poland’s Economy Ministry that their industry needs to change radically to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet.

“The world is rising to meet the climate challenge as risks of inaction mount, and it is in your best interest to make coal part of the solution,” Figueres said.

The coal event was seen as a provocation by climate activists, who used a crane to reach the ministry’s roof, where they unfurled banners criticizing Poland’s — and the world’s — reliance on coal and other fossil fuels. Continue Reading →

Opposition politicians raise questions about government’s handling of coal waste water spill that released dangerous chemicals – by Marty Klinkenberg (Edmonton Journal – November 15, 2013)

EDMONTON – The coal mine pond that leaked into the Athabasca River on Oct. 31 contained a range of potentially damaging compounds, including a suspected carcinogen called phenathrene.

According to the National Pollution Release Inventory, a database kept by Environment Canada, the impoundment at Sherritt International’s Obed Mountain mine also contained arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead and manganese.

Found in contaminated water and air, phenathrene is one of a group of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are known to cause tumours in laboratory animals.

Alberta Environment has refused to release information about the contents of the plume of waste water that stretches more than 100 kilometres down the Athabasca River, other than to say it contained high levels of suspended solids, including such things as clay, mud, shale and coal particles.

Department officials maintain the leak poses no health concerns, but have advised communities downstream not to draw water from the river. Continue Reading →

HudBay Minerals Meets a Legacy of Guatemalan Violence in Canadian Court – by Joseph Kirschke (Engineering and Mining Journal – November 11, 2013)

Five years ago, officials at Canada’s Skye Resources Inc. had a simple goal: to become a mid-tier nickel producer representing 1% of the global market by 2015 through developing their open-pit Phoenix project in El Estor, Guatemala, with a local subsidiary.

But as with many things in the troubled Central American nation, the focus was doomed from the start. Within two years, the Vancouver-based miner and Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel (GCN) would stand accused of colluding with private security forces and the local military in the gang rape of 11 indigenous women and two other attacks that left one man dead and another paralyzed, while clearing land for operations.

Such incidents are not unique to Guatemala. Indeed, the nation of 13 million heaves equally under drug trafficking violence and the simmering legacy of a brutal 36-year civil war, which claimed more than 250,000 lives and displaced more than 1.5 million. What is novel about this case, however, was its arrival before HudBay Minerals Inc.—which bought Skye in 2008 and abandoned Phoenix in 2011—in three separate lawsuits in a Canadian court this summer.

These will be the first such trials in the world’s top mining nation following three attempts by other foreign plaintiffs to hold Canadian miners accountable to their own court systems since 1997. Continue Reading →

Taseko’s New Prosperity mine in BC could still be approved – by Henry Lazenby ( – November 6, 2013)

TORONTO ( – In a surprising twist to the permitting saga surrounding base metals miner Taseko Mines’ proposed New Prosperity mine, in British Columbia, lead consulting engineer Knight Piesold has determined that it appeared that Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and subsequently the federal review panel, had used the wrong design in their analysis of seepage rates from the tailings storage facility.

Taseko said the panel relied heavily on modelling undertaken by NRCan, which had indicated that there would be significant seepage from the tailings storage facility into Fish Lake. The panel’s findings regarding the expected seepage, and the related impacts on Fish Lake, were integral to the panel’s conclusion that the project was likely to cause significant adverse effects on fish and fish habitat, wetlands and aboriginal interest in the Fish Lake area.

The design proposed by Taseko for the tailings storage facility included a continuous low-permeability compact soil liner to restrict seepage losses. This was a common and acceptable practice for modern facilities that had been recently permitted and developed in British Columbia and elsewhere in the world. Continue Reading →

Taseko fires back at federal report claiming B.C. mine poses environmental threat – by Peter Koven (National Post – November 6, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Taseko Mines Ltd. has a blunt message for Natural Resources Canada: you got it wrong.

But it is unclear what the federal government thinks of that message, or how it will impact Taseko’s efforts to build the New Prosperity mine in British Columbia.

Taseko’s statement came less than a week after a Federal Review Panel issued a damning report on New Prosperity. According to the panel, the proposed mine could create “significant adverse environmental effects” on local fish habitats and First Nations interests because of potential seepage from a tailings facility into nearby Fish Lake.

The panel report is important, as the government will review it before ruling on whether New Prosperity should go ahead. A highly negative report can swing Ottawa’s decision. According to Taseko, the report is badly flawed.

The company said it appears that Natural Resources Canada (NRC), a federal agency, studied the wrong tailings design when it evaluated New Prosperity. Continue Reading →

Poland, Wedded to Coal, Spurns Europe on Clean Energy Targets – by Danny Hakim and Mateusz (New York Times – October 31, 2013)

BELCHATOW, Poland — They call it Poland’s biggest hole in the ground. The coal mine here is more than eight-and-a-half miles long, nearly two miles wide and as deep in parts as three football fields. Enough coal comes out of it to fuel Europe’s largest coal-fired utility plant, whose chimneys loom in the distance.

“The entire world population could fit in this hole,” Tomasz Tarnowski, an administrator here, said in a bit of proud hyperbole as he led a group of reporters on a walk near a towering mound of brown coal about halfway into the mine.

Poland is Europe’s coal colossus. More than 88 percent of its electricity comes from coal. Belchatow is one of its huge sources and the largest carbon emitter in Europe. (There’s no “belch” in Belchatow — it is pronounced bel-HOT-oof.)

This month, a United Nations conference on climate change will be held in Poland, a location many environmental activists consider the least appropriate choice they could imagine. And while the European Union has mapped out ambitious clean-energy goals intended to reduce the greenhouse gases linked to global warming, Poland has been its fossil-fuels holdout. Continue Reading →

Taseko Prosperity Mine Environmental Study Predicts Death Of Fish Lake – by Vivian Luk (Canadian Press/Huffington Post – November 1, 2013)

VANCOUVER – Those for and against the controversial proposal for the billion-dollar New Prosperity Mine in British Columbia are drawing much different conclusions from their interpretation of a federal environmental review for the site.

The study by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, released late Thursday, concluded the open pit gold and copper mine proposed by Taseko (TSX:TKO) in B.C.’s central Interior would pose “several severely adverse environmental effects” on water quality, fish and fish habitat in a lake considered sacred by the area’s First Nations.

The project would likely pollute Fish Lake, known as Teztan Biny to First Nations, and endanger the aboriginal way of life and cultural identity, the report said.

This is the second time the federal review panel has rejected the project. The original proposal for the site southwest of Williams Lake was approved by the provincial government, but rejected by the federal government in 2010 because the plan was to drain the lake for use as a tailings pond. Continue Reading →

New Prosperity mine would have ‘adverse environmental effects,’ panel finds – CBC News British Columbia (October 31, 2013)

Review Board panel says mine would negatively impact water quality, fish habitat and local First Nations 

The Federal Review Panel released its long-anticipated report on the proposed New Prosperity copper-gold mine on Thursday night, concluding the mine “would result in several significant adverse environmental effects.”

The report specifically says that the mine would negatively impact water quality, fish and fish habitat in Fish Lake, land and resource use, and the cultural heritage of two First Nations directly impacted by the proposal.

Additionally, the panel found that the mine would have a “significant adverse cumulative effect” on the south Chilcotin grizzly bear population without considerable mitigation measures in place.

This is the second time the project has been reviewed by a federal panel. In 2010, the original proposal from Taseko Mines Ltd was found to have significant environmental shortfalls and was rejected by the Ministry of Environment. Continue Reading →

Snakes, Shellfish Traps Add to Mining Hazards as Lake Reemerges – by Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – October 29, 2013)

Usually Mines Have Too Little Water; Barrick Has Too Much

SYDNEY— Garry Pearson recalls precisely when a vast lake appeared on the doorstep of one of Barrick Gold Corp.’s ABX.T -1.56% biggest mines in Australia. It was two years ago, just as gold prices hit a high-water mark.

The area’s name—Lake Cowal—hinted there was water nearby. But for most of the decade that Barrick has been exploring for gold or mining in this remote part of New South Wales state, the land was so dry that local farmers used it to graze sheep and other livestock.

Since the lake reappeared, Barrick has faced a raft of water-driven challenges ranging from a scramble to find a floating drill rig to an influx of venomous snakes.

Mr. Pearson, an environment manager whose job at Barrick includes keeping noise levels within acceptable limits, no longer drives to work but jumps into a power boat or kayak. When he reaches the monitoring station, he has to climb atop a three-meter metal chair lapped by the lakewater. Continue Reading →

Rio Tinto Makes Hay From a Water Obstacle – by Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – October 29, 2013)

In Australia, Miner Seeks Help From Agriculture to Drill Deeper for Iron Ore

KARRATHA, Australia—In one of the driest places on Earth, mining companies like Rio Tinto PLC are grappling with a major water problem: too much of it.

As they deplete easy-to-access deposits of iron ore in Western Australia’s mineral-rich Pilbara region, big miners are spending billions of dollars to drill deeper than ever before, vying to feed Asia’s voracious appetite for raw materials. The latest prize: vast stores of ore that lie below the water table, typically located hundreds of yards beneath the Earth’s surface.

Bringing that ore to the surface would ease fears that the global economic recovery might strain mineral supplies and trigger a sharp rebound in commodity prices, potentially damping global growth.

In the remote Pilbara, which accounts for two-fifths of the world’s iron-ore exports, brisk demand, particularly from China, is creating a challenge for both miners and environmental regulators. Continue Reading →

Extent of Peruvian Amazon lost to illegal goldmines mapped for first time – by Dan Collyns (The Guardian – October 29, 2013)

Researchers have recorded a 400% increase in the area of Madre de Dios taken over by small mines from 1999 to 2012

Lima – The area affected by illegal gold mining in Peru’s south-eastern Amazon region increased by 400% from 1999 to 2012, according to researchers using state-of-the-art mapping technology.

Using airborne mapping and high-satellite monitoring, researchers led by the Carnegie Institution for Science also showed that the rate of forest loss in Madre de Dios has tripled since the 2008 global economic crisis, when the international price of gold began to rise to new highs.

Until this study, thousands of small, clandestine mines that have boomed since the economic crisis went unmonitored, according to the research team, which was led by Carnegie’s Greg Asner and worked with Peru’s environment ministry.

Crucial technological differences, such as the use of the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System-lite (CLASlite), meant the team was able to map both large and small mining operations. Continue Reading →

Orazietti squares off with [environmental commissioner] watchdog – by Elaine Della-Mattia (Sault Star – October 17, 2013)

Ontario’s environmental watchdog issued a warning that the province has changed legislation that will see its natural resources exploited – something Sault MPP and Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti argues vehemently against. Environmental commissioner Gord Miller states in his annual report that provincial government cutbacks announced during the spring budget will result in the Ministry of Natural Resources having less power to protect Ontario’s resources. 
Instead, the powers will be delegated to private companies, which in turn could lead to exploitation of Crown land, wildlife and natural resources, the report states.

He referred to Ontario’s far north as turning into the “wild west,” particularly with the potential development around the Ring of Fire, expected to be the province’s most promising mineral development of chromite and warns that major industrial activities can proceed with few checks.

He also criticized the government for a lack of an action plan to deal with invasive species like the Asian carp and emerald ash borer.

But Orazietti counters that Miller has misinterpreted the rules and that the new power for private companies only deals with minor changes on issues like dredging permits and the removal of vegetation that only has minimal environmental impact. Continue Reading →

Wildlands League wants freeze on Ring of Fire development – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – October 17, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The Wildlands League is calling on the Ontario government to undertake a region-wide environmental assessment of lands in the Ring of Fire, rather than allow piecemeal assessments by companies that have staked claims in the area.

The environmental organization has published a 12-page newsletter, urging Ontarians to insist the provincial and federal governments not issue any more approvals to companies such as Cliffs Natural Resources, Noront Resources and KWG Resources until a thorough environmental assessment is complete.

It wants that assessment to include consultation with members of First Nations and other communities who will be impacted by mining in the Ring of Fire — and that includes Sudburians.

Cliffs Natural Resources has chosen the former Moose Mine site north of Capreol as the location for its $1.8-billion ferrochrome processing plant to process ore from its Black Thor deposit. Continue Reading →

Northern China is running out of water, but the government’s remedies are potentially disastrous (The Economist – October 12, 2013)

BEIJING – CHINA endures choking smog, mass destruction of habitats and food poisoned with heavy metals. But ask an environmentalist what is the country’s biggest problem, and the answer is always the same. “Water is the worst,” says Wang Tao, of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing, “because of its scarcity, and because of its pollution.” “Water,” agrees Pan Jiahua, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “People can’t survive in a desert.” Wang Shucheng, a former water minister, once said: “To fight for every drop of water or die: that is the challenge facing China.”

He was not exaggerating. A stock image of China is a fisherman and his cormorant on a placid lake. The reality is different. The country uses 600 billion cubic metres (21,200 billion cubic feet) of water a year, or about 400 cubic metres a person—one-quarter of what the average American uses and less than half the international definition of water stress.

The national average hides an even more alarming regional disparity. Four-fifths of China’s water is in the south, notably the Yangzi river basin. Half the people and two-thirds of the farmland are in the north, including the Yellow River basin. Beijing has the sort of water scarcity usually associated with Saudi Arabia: just 100 cubic metres per person a year. The water table under the capital has dropped by 300 metres (nearly 1,000 feet) since the 1970s. Continue Reading →