Archive | Mining Environmental Accidents, Pollution and Abandoned Mines

Arsenic to be removed from Sudbury’s Long Lake – by Jim Moodie (Sudbury Star – June 24, 2017)

Residents of Long Lake will notice some extra activity around their shores in coming months — and next year, especially — but chances are they’ll welcome the temporary annoyance of noisy equipment over the lingering presence of a deadly poison.

A tender is going out this summer for reclamation work on the former Long Lake Gold site, which has been leaching arsenic into the southwest corner of the lake for years, with a contract to be awarded in the fall and the work apt to commence in earnest early in the new year.

Stephen Butcher, chair of Long Lake Stewardship, said it’s been a long wait for a remediation project to get the go-ahead but “we’re ecstatic it’s finally getting done.” It was Butcher’s stewardship group that first detected elevated levels of arsenic, which has been filtering down from old tailings deposits, through water testing done back in 2011. Continue Reading →

Failure of Water Treatment Plant at B.C. Coal Mine Raises Downstream Concerns – by Tristan Scott (Flathead Beacon – June 20, 2017)

As British Columbia’s downstream neighbour, Montana has long been concerned about mining pollution spilling across the international border and into its world-class watersheds — fears that a growing body of research and evidence confirms are well founded.

Most recently, conservation groups and scientists on both sides of the border have renewed their calls for Teck Resources to halt new coal mines in the Elk River Valley, a step they say gained urgency when an experimental water treatment facility designed to stem the flow of a mining contaminant called selenium was taken offline because it was releasing an even more biologically toxic form of the heavy metal.

The trouble brewing in the Elk River is equally worrisome for Montana, where the upstream waterways of British Columbia flow into two shared bodies of water straddling the international boundary — Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River. Continue Reading →

Three-year deadline to lay charges for Mt. Polley dam failure approaching fast – by Gordon Hoekstra (June 20, 2017)

A deadline looms for provincial charges to be laid in the failure of the tailings dam at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine, but the B.C. Conservation Officer Service says the investigation has not finished.

There is a three-year time limit to lay charges under B.C.’s Environmental Management Act. The deadline is less than two months away, on Aug. 4. The conservation service has been leading a joint investigation with the federal Environment and Fisheries departments.

Chris Doyle, deputy chief of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, said Tuesday that when the investigation is complete, the findings will be forwarded to Crown counsel for review and to determine what charges will be laid, if any. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: Barrick’s Argentina mine may be allowed full operations in June – by Maximiliano Rizzi (Reuters U.S. – May 22, 2017)

BUENOS AIRES – The government of Argentina’s San Juan province has approved a plan for improving Barrick Gold Corp’s Veladero mine following its third spill of cyanide solution in 18 months and could allow full operations to resume in early June, a government official said.

Eduardo Machuca, the province’s secretary of environmental management and mining control, told Reuters in a phone interview that local authorities had reviewed and discussed Barrick’s improvement plan and improvements to the mine were well under way.

“I think that around June 10 there will be conditions to enable the mine, once the pneumatic, hydraulic and all engineering tests are done,” Machuca said on Monday. Continue Reading →

Uranium mine cleanup moves ahead, but Saskatchewan is left with ballooning cost – by Rob Drinkwater (CBC News Saskatchewan – May 14, 2017)

Cleanup cost about 10 times higher than original $25M estimate

The Canadian Press – The total price tag was estimated at under $25 million when the federal government agreed to pay for half the cleanup of a radioactive Cold-War-era uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan.

But a decade later, the expected cost for remediation of the remote Gunnar mine has swelled to about 10 times that and Ottawa isn’t offering any more money, even as the province starts this summer to remediate millions of tonnes of tailings and waste rock left when the mine closed in 1964.

“With Gunnar, just the size of the waste-rock piles and the tailings area alone, it’s fairly unavoidable that costs were significantly more,” said Cory Hughes, executive director of mineral policy at the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Economy. “You really have to be there to appreciate the size of the project.” Continue Reading →

Inventory of abandoned mines now available – by Staff (Northern Ontario Business – May 12, 2017)

Mining watchdog suggests $3.1 billion worth of cleanup is required for Ontario alone.

A new online inventory that catalogues abandoned and orphaned mines across Canada is now available to the public.

The inventory, released in April, is a project of the National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI). NOAMI was launched in 2002 in response to a request from mine ministers in federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions to address issues related to orphaned and abandoned mines across the country.

According to NOAMI, “orphaned or abandoned mines are those mines for which the owner cannot be found or for which the owner is financially unable or unwilling to carry out cleanup. They pose environmental, health, safety and economic problems to communities, the mining industry and governments in many countries, including Canada.” Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: Release of the NOAMI Inventory of Orphaned and Abandoned Mines (April 2017)

The members of the National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI), working in collaboration with numerous partners, including provinces, territories and several federal departments, have joined their efforts to provide Canadians and other stakeholders with access to a new inventory of orphaned and abandoned mines in Canada.

Launched in 2002, NOAMI was created as a multi‐stakeholder initiative in response to a request by federal, provincial and territorial mines ministers to address issues related to orphaned and abandoned mines in Canada.  Since its inception, the members of NOAMI recognised the need to develop a Canada‐wide approach to bring together the patch‐work of inventories currently held by provincial, territorial and federal jurisdictions across Canada.

Released today, the NOAMI inventory is designed to build on the strengths of these individual inventories and to provide users of this information with a tool that offers a single‐window, web‐based access to data from multiple jurisdictions, and facilitate the addition of more detailed information in the future.   A web portal approach is used whenever possible, providing users with a link to the original data source.   Continue Reading →

Brazil prosecutors demand crackdown on illegal gold mining in Amazon’s “El Dorado” – by Chris Arsenault (Reuters U.S. – May 8, 2017)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Officials in Brazil’s largest state are facing mounting pressure to crackdown on illegal gold mining in the Amazon rainforest where thousands of workers are destroying ecologically sensitive land, according to the Amazonas state prosecutor’s office.

Since 2007, thousands of miners have descended upon Apui in northwestern Brazil in the so-called “New El Dorado” hoping to strike rich but in the process destroying 14,000 hectares of jungle by cutting down trees and poisoning rivers with mercury.

In a drive to close these illegal mines, prosecutors are now suing Brazil’s environment enforcement agency, the Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), and other government departments which they say have failed to stop ecological crimes in illicit mines. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: Barrick faces sanctions for Argentina cyanide spills, judge says – by Julianaa Castilla (Reuters U.S. – May 8, 2017)

SAN JUAN, ARGENTINA – Barrick Gold Corp failed to complete improvements to the Veladero mine in Argentina that could have prevented the third spill of cyanide solution in 18 months, leading to eventual sanctions for the world’s biggest gold miner, a judge told Reuters.

Barrick appears to have missed deadlines on three orders from local authorities, including replacing pipes, before the March 28 spill, said Pablo Oritja, the judge overseeing cases related to Veladero in the nearby town of Jachal, where “Barrick out” graffiti lines the streets.

“If they had changed pipes as ordered, the decoupling (of pipes) would not have occurred,” Oritja told Reuters on Friday, the day after meeting the head of the mining police in western Argentina’s San Juan province, where Veladero and Jachal are located. Continue Reading →

B.C. Election 2017: NDP, Greens, Liberals agree mining is important, but must protect environment – by Gordon Hoekstra (Vancouver Sun – May 7, 2017)

When the earth-and-rock dam that held back millions of cubic metres of mine waste and effluent at Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine failed in 2014, it left the mining industry in B.C. and Canada shaken.

One of the largest dam failures in the world in the past 50 years, it sparked concern among the public, environmental groups and First Nations that aquatic life would be harmed, particularly salmon that use the Quesnel Lake system to spawn in the B.C. Interior. Studies on the effects of the spill are expected to last for years. In the aftermath of the spill — and heading into the May 9 election — the B.C. Liberals continue to be strong proponents of mining.

In their platform, the Liberals say they want to see eight new mines created by 2020, and point to new mines opened under their tenure and those under construction, including the $811-million Brucejack underground gold mine in northern B.C. Continue Reading →

Sandmining is destroying Asia’s rivers (The Third Pole – May 5, 2017)

There is no house or road or bridge or port in South Asia whose builders can claim to have built it with legally obtained sand alone. Illegal mining of sand from riverbeds is so ubiquitous in the subcontinent that on the rare occasions it is stopped temporarily by a judicial order, house prices go up and editorials criticising the judgement are written in financial newspapers.

Reporting illegal sand mining is the most dangerous thing a journalist can do in India. In the last couple of years, three journalists have been killed, allegedly by the illegal sand mining mafia, one each in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

A fourth journalist reporting on illegal mining of sand from the beaches of Tamil Nadu has been repeatedly threatened; anonymous callers – claiming to speak on behalf of a local politician from the party that rules the state – have ordered her to stay away from the area or else. Continue Reading →

After the mining, what’s next? Overseas mine rehabilitation offers lessons for Australia – by Gregg Borschmann (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – May 3, 2017)

Click here for the radio program:

In Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, the Hazelwood brown coal mine is closed. In the NT, the Ranger uranium mine is due to shut down in four years’ time. They’re very different mines, but with the same problem: what to do with the landscape once the mining stops.

From Australia to the Americas, from Europe to South Africa, there are plenty of lessons to be learned. One of the best examples of restoring a post-mining landscape comes from Europe, where uranium mining by the once feared and secret Wismut company had created a environmental tragedy.

“It was military mining … a military operation to get the first uranium for the Soviet nuclear bomb,” says Gerhard Schmidt, a senior researcher with the Oeko Institute in Germany. “It was not very sustainable … they mined and milled the ore and put the wastes into large piles of more than 100 million tonnes, some of which are the largest in the world.” Continue Reading →

Philippines environment minister ousted over anti-mining campaign – by Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz (Reuters U.S. – May 3, 2017)

MANILA – Philippine lawmakers ended a 10-month crusade by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez on Wednesday, forcing out the eco-warrior whose mining crackdown was backed by the president but led to demands for her removal by miners.

The rejection of Lopez by the Commission on Appointments is final and a mining lobby group immediately said it would seek a reversal of her measures, while President Rodrigo Duterte’s office said he would respect the decision.

Lopez characterized her campaign as a fight against greedy miners who were threatening public health and damaging nature in a country better known for mountains and beaches than resources. The 63-year-old daughter of a media mogul who left her privileged Philippine life behind when she was a teenager, had ordered the closure of more than half of the mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier and last week banned open-pit mining. Continue Reading →

[Norilsk, Russia] Global Lenses: Diverse political films tackle war, energy and the impact of history – by Daniel Glassman (Point Of View Magazine – April 26, 2017)

Three new Canadian films take on contemporary global issues through radically different lenses. Stopping off in an Arctic Russian mining city, the ruins of Basra, Iraq and a massive thermonuclear reactor in Southern France, François Jacob’s A Moon of Nickel and Ice, Ann Shin’s My Enemy, My Brother and Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko’s Let There Be Light investigate the entangled issues of history, war, energy and ecology from the bottom up, through intense focuses on individuals and their stories.

Quebecois director Jacob makes his feature debut with A Moon of Nickel and Ice, a multi-faceted portrait of the Siberian nickelmining city of Norilsk. Three facts about Norilsk: It’s the world’s northernmost city with over 100,000 inhabitants; it’s one of the most polluted places in the world; and it’s a “closed city”—foreigners have been banned since 2001, and it was closed to most Russians as well during the Soviet era. Norilsk Nickel’s on-site smelting facility gives the gifts of acid rain, smog and fully 1% of the world’s sulfur dioxide emissions.

You may be wondering how they got 100,000 people to move there. Answer: they forced them. Yes, Norilsk was the site of a Soviet Gulag. Continue Reading →

Australian-first centre tackles mining scars on WA landscape – by Emma Young (WA Today – April 27, 2017)

An Australian-first project has lured scientists to Perth from across the globe to work with resources companies on restoring huge tracts of WA land left barren after mining is done. The $6.7 million new centre at Curtin University is led by botanist Kingsley Dixon, former director of science at Kings Park and 2016 WA Scientist of the Year.

He said while Australia had strict approvals processes and mine regulation, the end of a mine’s life was far less scrutinised. “A report by the Australia Institute in March showed Australia had 60,000 abandoned mines where the miner has walked away because it’s too hard to patch the hole, put back the veg,” he said.

“Now a federal inquiry happening into how we got this so wrong. “And in this state the scale of the problem is colossal. There are few other mining activities in the world on this scale.” Continue Reading →