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

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

http://www.theguardian.com/uk

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)

http://www.saultstar.com/

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)

http://www.economist.com/

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 →

Trading ice for gold in Chile – by Sarah Tory (Santiago Times – September 22, 2013) [Part 3 of 3]

http://www.santiagotimes.cl/ [Chile]

Part III of a three-part series on Chile’s water crisis: Melting glaciers in the Andes have dire implications and may prove a robust obstacle to future economic growth.

t the 1992 world fair in Seville, Spain, Chile’s pavilion featured a large iceberg. Some 100 tons of ice — the equivalent of 15 full-grown African elephants — were extracted from the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap and shipped across the Atlantic where they were conserved for six months during the European summer.

To the newly democratic government, the spectacle was meant to symbolize Chile’s emergence as Latin America’s success story, ready to take its place on the world stage. It was also a telling symbol of what drove Chile’s surging economy: a frenzy of digging, cutting and exporting from copper mines in the North to logging in the South.

More than two decades later, the symbol of Chile’s growth is more relevant than ever. With dwindling reserves and growing water shortages, the country’s copper mines — its economic backbone — are being squeezed by two opposing forces: financial pressure to expand and concern over environmental impacts. Now the model that was once hailed as the emblem of Chile’s success is beginning to look as unstable as a massive chunk of ice plunked down under the Mediterranean heat. Continue Reading →

As reservoirs shrink and farms expand, Chile’s agriculture at risk – by Rosalind Adams and Sarah Tory (Santiago Times – September 1, 2013) [Part 2 of 3]

http://www.santiagotimes.cl/ [Chile]

Part II of a three-part series on Chile’s water crisis: A combination of severe drought, climate change and overuse leaves farmers struggling to compete for a dwindling resource.

Last year the river in Petorca ran dry, leaving a dusty brown ditch running through the once fertile valley in Chile’s Valparaíso Region, home to 40 percent of the country’s avocado production.

The area, forming part of the “norte-chico” zone that starts north of Santiago and runs all the way to the southern edge of the Atacama Desert, contains some of Chile’s most important agriculture pockets. It’s also one of the driest parts of the country.

Here, almost all the rain falls over a short three month period from June to August. Over the last decade, though, the rainy season has delivered only the occasional shower. That has left the farmland in the North thirstier than ever.

In the province of Petorca, currently in the midst of a seven-year dry spell, reports of widespread “water robbing” have emerged as desperate farmers construct illegal wells to access what little remains of the water available in underground aquifers. Continue Reading →

In Chile’s dry north, big mining threatens a vital resource – by Rosalind Adams and Sarah Tory (Santiago Times – August 24, 2013) [Part 1 of 3]

http://www.santiagotimes.cl/ [Chile]

Part I of a three-part series on Chile’s water crisis: Amid a growing water shortage, the Huasco Valley struggles to find a balance between mining and agriculture.

Deep in Chile’s Atacama Region, Sandra Anacona makes jam from the apricots and peaches that grow on her two-acre farm, land that has been in her husband’s family for six generations. Her face wrinkled into a permanent smile, she shuffles around the kitchen preparing meals and piping-hot cups of Nescafé for the endless parade of neighbors and family who show up at her dining table.

In the Valle del Huasco, these family-run farms, clustered around small pueblos like Alto del Carmen and San Félix, are permanent fixtures: ask for directions, and people give names instead of addresses — testament to a lifestyle that has changed little in 200 years.

Formed by the river snaking between Andean peaks, the Valle del Huasco appears like a ribbon of green in one of the driest places on Earth. Defying the surrounding desert, acres of pisco grapes grow, along with mangos, oranges, papayas and avocados. Continue Reading →

Risk of ‘irreversible damage’ seen in Ring of Fire – by Wendy Parker (In Support of Mining.com – October 11, 2013)

http://insupportofmining.wordpress.com/

Ontario is “risking irreversible damage to wildlife and wilderness” by rushing to develop mines, roads and power lines in its fragile far north. That’s the warning from Gord Miller, the province’s environmental commissioner, who has singled out the stalled Ring of Fire project for special attention in his annual report to the provincial legislature.

In a Thursday release highlighting his Ring of Fire concerns, Miller says Ontario’s “long-held rule” has been to establish planning controls before projects can be built.

In the case of far northern mineral activity, however, “infrastructure such as highways and transmission corridors are already on the drawing board” and “there’s been little analysis or public debate of their effect on the environment or their benefits for First Nations.”

Miller maintains there is still time “to get things right” in the far northern region by ensuring that land-use plans, jointly created by First Nations and the Ontario government, are in place before development proceeds. Continue Reading →

Legislation to protect Chile’s glaciers and water supplies worries important mining industry – by Associated Press (Washington Post – October 09, 2013)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/

SANTIAGO, Chile — Just how to define a glacier is at the heart of a Chilean congressional battle that could determine the future of mining in the world’s largest copper-producing country.

The revival of legislation to ban mining in glacial areas is spawning debate among miners, farmers and environmentalists about how to protect both vital water supplies and Chile’s mining industry. If the bill passes, mining experts fear it could shutter multibillion-dollar mining projects and slow investment.

The key will be in the fine print of whether the final bill defines glaciers as including frozen areas around them, too, and whether the protections would apply retroactively to mines already operating next to glaciers.

“If it passes as a law with tough conditions, it could harm not only the operation of current projects but also future projects,” said Juan Carlos Guajardo, head of the Chilean mining think tank CESCO. “Depending on the conditions, the scenarios would make mining activity very difficult in high mountain areas.” Continue Reading →

Water Insecurity a Key Threat to the Development of Global Mining – by Lauren Power (Future Directions International – October 9, 2013)

http://www.futuredirections.org.au/

Pressure for platinum miners in South Africa to halve their water consumption is symptomatic of a growing global risk to resource development posed by water shortages and conflict over water supplies available for mines.

Background

The South African Government recently requested that platinum miners in the country’s North West province cut their water use by half, in response to a drought that is threatening water supplies in the region. Throughout the world, mining activities are being challenged by water issues involving the availability of supplies for operational use, community conflict over available resources and the environmental consequences of water contamination.

Water issues are creating threefold operational, regulatory and reputational risk for miners, who are increasingly identifying water shortages as a top ranking issue in risk analysis. The availability of water is a considerable factor, affecting both growth and productivity; shortages in supply could prove a threat to new developments in some areas. Continue Reading →

Water shortage threatens mining – by Lucky Biyase (Business Day – October 13, 2013)

http://www.bdlive.co.za/ [South Africa]

TROUBLED mining companies in the Rustenburg platinum belt are facing another crisis — drought.

This may add to problems besetting companies trapped in the middle of rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

The water affairs department and North West’s provincial government have both warned of a drought in the mineral-rich province.

South Africa supplies nearly 60% of the world’s platinum and rhodium and 30% of palladium. The department has warned mining companies, among them Glencore, Anglo American and Lonmin, to restrict water use.

Lonmin’s executive vice-president for process and sustainability, Natascha Viljoen, said: “We are working with the Madibeng local municipality to explore opportunities to re-use water. Our current external source of water is Rand Water and the Buffelspoort canal scheme, and the rest is internal.” Continue Reading →

Age of the water wars – by Brahma Chellaney (Globe and Mail – October 9, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

In an increasingly parched world, shared water resources are becoming an instrument of power, fostering competition within and between nations. The struggle is escalating political tensions and exacerbating effects on ecosystems. This week’s Budapest World Water Summit is the latest initiative to search for ways to mitigate the pressing challenges.

Consider some sobering facts: Bottled water at the grocery store is more expensive than crude oil on the spot market. More people own or use a cellphone than have access to sanitation services.

Unclean water is the greatest killer on the globe, yet a fifth of humankind still lacks easy access to potable water. More than half of the global population lives under water stress – a figure projected to increase to two-thirds during the next decade.

Access to natural resources has been a key factor, historically, in war and peace. Water, however, is very different from other natural resources. A person cannot live without water. Continue Reading →

Roasting (Heat) or Leaching (Liquid) Minerals: Which is More Environmentally Sound – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

One the news releases that landed in my inbox last week made me wonder about the advancement of mineral processing technology. Is it going forward … or back?

The item in question came from a Canadian company testing a South American property for its zinc potential. The company and project shall remain nameless. What caught my eye was that the favourable results were obtained in a kiln. That made me wonder why hydrometallurgical methods were not being tested.

Anytime an ore is subjected to heating it gives off gases. The worst case scenario is the burning of sulphide ores and resulting clouds of SO2 and NOx responsible for widespread environmental damage. Such was the case in the early days of smelting nickel and copper ores from the mines near Sudbury, ON.

Fortunately today we have gas containment units, acid plants and various means of controlling particulate and other emissions. These technologies help protect the environment, but they come with certain costs and limitations.

Hydrometallurgical means of metal recovery does not produce such deleterious emissions. Methods have been adapted in recent history to leach almost every kind of ore imaginable and to create the purest metals. Hydrometallurgy is considered far cleaner than roasting ores. Continue Reading →

Mainstream Media Ignorance About Mining – Especially Waste Disposal – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

I’ve let the daily press get under my skin again. Newspapers and the CBC are telling the public that mining companies are going to destroy pristine Canadian lakes by turning them into dump sites for toxic mine waste. Why does the popular press still think that everything coming from a mine operation is “toxic”? Has no one outside the mining industry ever heard of sub-aqueous deposition?

There are 16 projects for which mining companies have applied to use lakes as tailings repositories, claim the environmentalists. The list includes the following 15:

BRITISH COLUMBIA
– NORTHGATE MINERALS – Kemess North (Duncan Lake)
– SHERWOOD COPPER – Kutcho Creek (Andrea Creek)
– ADANAC MOLY – Ruby Creek (Ruby Creek)
– TASEKO MINES – Prosperity (Fish Lake)
– IMPERIAL METALS – Red Chris
– TERRANE METALS – Mount Milligan

Continue Reading →