Archive | Mining Environmental Accidents and Pollution

Does Norilsk Nickel deserve to be Russia’s environmental gold standard? – by Charles Digges ( – March 22, 2017)

Norilsk Nickel, the giant Northern Siberian nickel producer and historically one of the country’s biggest polluters, won a prestigious environmental nod from the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs for closing down one of its most infamously befouling facilities

Norilsk Nickel, the giant Northern Siberian nickel producer and historically one of the country’s biggest polluters, won a prestigious environmental nod from the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs for closing down one of its most infamously befouling facilities.

According to the Russian business daily Vedomosti, the environmental award from the industrialists’ union is one of the organization’s key annual events. Russia’s environmental minister, Sergei Donskoi, who presented the prize, called Norilsk Nickel “the absolute leader in environmental change occurring in the industrial policy in Russia.” Continue Reading →

Brazil dam disaster lawsuit against BHP Billiton, Vale, suspended – by Paul Kiernan(The Australian – March 17, 2018)

A Brazilian judge has suspended a nearly $US50 billion ($A65bn) lawsuit against the mining firms responsible for the 2015 Samarco tailings dam disaster, as negotiations between the companies and authorities moved forward.

The decision came as part of a ruling in which federal judge Mário de Paula Franco Júnior approved a road map toward a final agreement between prosecutors and mining companies BHP Billiton (BHP), Vale, and their joint-venture Samarco Mineração.

Brazil’s government, which brought the lawsuit, was not immediately available for comment but in the past has indicated its main concern was reaching a settlement and safely restarting the mine. Continue Reading →

Don’t trust B.C. on Tulsequah Chief Mine – by Chris Miller (Juneau Empire – March 11, 2017)

Chris Miller is a professional photographer, based in Juneau, who focuses on commercial fisheries.

In June 2010, I visited the Tulsequah Chief Mine to see what was being done to halt the acid mine drainage flowing into the Tulsequah River, the largest tributary to the transboundary Taku River, since mine owner Redfern went bankrupt in March 2009.

It was shocking to see the site, which sits right on the banks of the Tulsequah River, about 13 river miles upstream of the Alaska/British Columbia (B.C.) border and 40 miles northeast of Juneau, essentially abandoned and the orange acid mine drainage pooling up and draining into the Tulsequah River.

In 2013, I flew over the site and the highly toxic acid mine drainage was still flowing out of the mine and into the river. Continue Reading →

Mining industry, environmental groups watch as Canada plans new coal effluent rules – by Paul Withers (CBC News Nova Scotia – February 22, 2017)

Environment and Climate Change Canada is considering plans to impose new effluent limits that would reduce harmful discharges from coal mining by 2019.

Ottawa’s proposal would require new coal mines to collect and monitor all effluent through a final discharge point where it would have to meet new limits for suspended solids, nitrates and a toxic byproduct called selenium.

For existing mines, effluent limits would be monitored after discharge into the environment. The department held its first stakeholder consultation in Nova Scotia on Wednesday. More meetings are scheduled for Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia in coming weeks. Continue Reading →

From Appalachia To Standing Rock, Water Is Life – by Mary Anne Hitt (Huffington Post – February 13, 2017)

Mary Anne Hitt is director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

I live in West Virginia, one of the states where residents can now expect more toxic coal pollution in our streams and rivers thanks to a repeal of mining safeguards by the Republican-controlled Congress.

A few short days after that disastrous decision, the White House cancelled an environmental review and then approved the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline, which threatens the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux and millions more people downstream.

The Standing Rock Sioux have long opposed the Dakota Access pipeline because of the risk to drinking water, and this week’s decision was one more painful demonstration of how quickly some political leaders will put profits over public health and tribal sovereignty. Continue Reading →

Environmental justice: The Philippines mining industry – by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid (Manila Bulletin – February 14, 2017)

Pro-environment activists hailed President Duterte’s support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s order to close 23 mining corporations that had violated environmental laws. The basis of the DENR ruling on the closure of these 23 mining firm(out of a total of 41 firm) was that they were operating in functional watersheds.

They shall not be operating unless they appeal the decision which would become final when the President says it is. Water is important, Lopez says, and the green economy can actually create more jobs.

The 23 firms include One Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Bulacan, the Benguet Corporation, the country’s oldest mining company, the Benguet Corporation’s Nickel Mines, Inc., the Diversified Metals Corporation in Zambales, the Eraman Minerals, three mining companies in Homonhon, six firms in Dinagat Islands, and seven other firms in Surigao del Norte. In addition, five corporations were also suspended. Continue Reading →

Malaysia’s shooting-star bauxite industry faces burn up – by Emily Chow (Reuters U.S. – February 13, 2017)

KUALA LUMPUR – Already under fire for widespread environmental damage, Malaysia’s once lucrative bauxite mining industry is facing a likely death knell from neighboring Indonesia’s move to allow a resumption of exports.

This time last year, Malaysia was the world’s biggest supplier of the aluminum-making raw material to top buyer China, but its exports tumbled after government action aimed at reining in the little regulated industry.

The latest move could spell the end for a sector that only sprang to life in late 2014 after Indonesia banned ore exports, and illustrates the risks facing miners across Southeast Asia from increasingly uncertain government policy. Continue Reading →

Industrial Pollution, The Kola Mining and Metallurgy Combine: Pollution cuts from Norilsk Nickel could quiet Norwegian rebels – by Charles Digges ( – February 7, 2017)

Norilsk Nickel head Vladimir Potanin announced plans to spend $17 billion in the company’s modernization during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin last week, about a quarter of which will go toward environmental improvement, by 2023.

The money would add up to a giant slash in sulfur dioxide emissions from the Kola Mining and Metallurgy Company that have been wafting in the hundreds of thousands of tons across the Norwegian border since before the fall of the Soviet Union.

In the meeting, which was described on the Kremlin website, Potanin reiterated promises that the company would slash emissions of sulfur dioxide by 75 percent from its Norilsk facilities in northern Siberia, and by 90 percent at its daughter Kola Mining and Metallurgy Company near Murmansk. Continue Reading →

Could a virus spell the end of acid rock drainage? – by Molly Lempriere (Mining – February 6, 2017)

Microbes are an intrinsic element of the mining process, bringing both beneficial and dangerous side-effects. Naturally occurring micro-organisms are inevitably exposed during excavation, causing chemical reactions that vary from site to site.

Companies as large as Vale and Rio Tinto have begun to use microbes to their advantage with biomining techniques that capitalise on waning resources as regulations tighten.

Research into microbes at mine sites continues to yield benefits; one new study by the University of British Columbia (UBC) has managed to identify and isolate microbes involved in acid rock drainage (ARD). This will enable strategies to counteract the damaging effects of ARD, giving mine sites control over the microbes within them and further minimising the environmental effects of mining. Continue Reading →

Underfunding for mine cleanups rises to more than $1.27 billion – by Gordon Hoekstra (Vancouver Sun – January 27, 2017)

Underfunding for the clean-up of mines inched up to $1.273 billion in 2015, upping the level of financial risk to taxpayers above what it was the year before. The estimate is up from $1.263 billion in 2014 and may continue to increase, according to B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett.

B.C. law requires mining companies to post security, for example a bond, to cover the costs of reclamation and any continuing treatment of tailings pond water, which contains mine waste, when a mine closes. In a report last year, B.C. auditor general Carol Bellringer said the shortfall meant taxpayers could be on the hook if a company couldn’t pay for cleaning up a closed mine.

Bellringer recommended mine-by-mine details be reported and that government “safeguard” taxpayers by ensuring the estimate of the reclamation liability is accurate and that security demanded by government is sufficient to cover potential costs. Continue Reading →

Underground fires, toxins in unfunded cleanup of old mines – by Michael Virtanene (Las Vegas Sun – January 28, 2017)

Associated Press – PRESTON COUNTY, W.Va. — An underground coal mine fire burns beneath a sprawling hillside in West Virginia, the pale, acrid smoke rising from gashes in the scarred, muddy earth only a stone’s throw from some houses.

The fire, which may have started with arson, lightning or a forest fire, smoldered for several years before bursting into flames last July in rural Preston County. The growing blaze moved the mine to the top of a list of thousands of problem decades-old coal sites in West Virginia awaiting cleanup and vying for limited federal funds.

State officials say $4.5 billion worth of work remains at more than 3,300 sites abandoned by coal companies before 1977, when Congress passed a law establishing a national fund for old cleanups. That program was part of an effort to heal the state from the ravages of an industry that once dominated its economy but has fallen on hard times. Continue Reading →

BHP-Vale Mine Restart Encounters New Obstacle: Small-Town Mayor – by R.T. Watson (Bloomberg News – January 26, 2017)

BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA’s crippled Samarco mine, once the world’s second-largest producer of iron-ore pellets, has a new obstacle threatening to slow its much-anticipated restart: a small-town mayor.

The Brazilian city of Santa Barbara declined to sign off this week on a plan for Samarco to continue to use water from a nearby river. Without the approval, Samarco won’t be able to complete an ongoing environmental study required by state regulators for a restart, a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

“There are environmental impacts related to the water supply that need to be thoroughly studied,” Leris Braga, the 34-year-old mayor of the town of 30,000 people in Minas Gerais state, said by telephone. He is calling for a separate study to be done to test for possible disruptions to water flow. Continue Reading →

BHP Billiton, Vale closer to Samarco dam settlement – by Peter Ker (Australian Financial Review – January 19, 2017)

BHP Billiton and Brazilian miner Vale have struck a preliminary agreement with Brazilian prosecutors, which lays out a path for a future settlement of the largest legal claim eminating from the Samarco dam disaster.

The dam disaster killed 19 people in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in November 2015, and as the owners of Samarco, BHP and Vale have been locked in legal negotiations with Brazilian regulators and prosecutors ever since.

​The Brazilian government agreed to a reparation and rehabilitation package worth 9.2 billion Brazilian Real ($3.7 billion) in March 2016, but that deal was suspended when independent federal prosecutors in Brazil lobbed a 155 billion Brazilian Real ($63.7 billion) claim in May 2016. Continue Reading →

Contaminated mine ‘an embarrassment to Canada’, says Yukon judge – by Paul Tukker (CBC News North – January 18, 2017)

Supreme Court justice cites ‘unscrupulous and unchecked profiteering’ at BYG’s Mount Nansen mine

A Yukon judge has delivered a strongly-worded “wake up call” to Canadian taxpayers, who are now on the hook for another expensive mine cleanup in the territory.

Yukon Supreme Court justice Ron Veale approved a clean up plan for the abandoned Mount Nansen mine site, last spring — to be paid for by Ottawa — but issued his written decision this week.

He used the opportunity to lambaste the mine’s former owner, Toronto firm, BYG Resources, for an “unscrupulous history of … operational mismanagement” that left a big, toxic mess for government to deal with. “This case stands as a painful reminder of the lasting and egregious damage that unscrupulous and unchecked profiteering can bring about in the mining sector. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: Justice Department, EPA and The Navajo Nation Announce Settlement for Cleanup of 94 Abandoned Uranium Mines on The Navajo Nation (January 17, 2017)

January 17, 2017 – The United States and the Navajo Nation have entered into a settlement agreement with two affiliated subsidiaries of Freeport-McMoRan, Inc, for the cleanup of 94 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Under the settlement, valued at over $600 million, Cyprus Amax Minerals Company and Western Nuclear, Inc., will perform the work and the United States will contribute approximately half of the costs.

The settlement terms are outlined in a proposed consent decree filed today in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona. With this settlement, funds are now committed to begin the cleanup process at over 200 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

The work to be conducted is subject to oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. Continue Reading →