Archive | Mining Environmental Accidents, Pollution and Abandoned Mines

New uranium mines: no simple answers – by Emery Cowan (Arizona Daily Sun – October 15, 2017)

A town on the edge of the Navajo Nation that unknowingly drank uranium-tainted water for at least 12 years. Navajo babies showing increasing uranium concentrations during their first year of life.

Children swimming in natural pools near Cameron they later learned had been filled with water from abandoned uranium mines. The stories about the impacts of Cold War-era uranium mining on the Navajo Nation became highly personal during a forum hosted at the Museum of Northern Arizona Wednesday night.

Four decades later, the subject has come to the fore again as a grandfathered uranium mine moves forward with operations south of Tusayan and a new president stokes fears about the reopening of 1 million acres of the Grand Canyon watershed outside the national park to new mining. Continue Reading →

Talvivaara: Finland’s biggest environmental crime case returns to court (YLE Uutiset – October 9, 2017)

Finland’s most notorious corporate environmental crimes case returned to court on Monday. The founder and owner of the Finnish nickel mine Talvivaara – as well as other leaders of the company – could face massive fines and suspended jail sentences in appeals court.

An environmental crime trial about mining company Talvivaara’s past operations began at the Rovaniemi appeals court on Monday.

Under scrutiny in the trial are the construction and use of Talvivaara’s gypsum waste pond, alleged scheduled and uncontrolled dumping of effluents into nature, as well as issues surrounding the handling and placement of the mine’s various waste components.

Prosecutors claim that Talvivaara bosses committed their first environmental crimes as early as 2004 when the mine was in its planning and building stages. Continue Reading →

[Norilsk Nickel] Russia and Norway make progress on cross-border environmental problems – by Anna Kireeva ( – October 9, 2017)

Russian and Norwegian environmentalists and politicians gathering in the industrial town of Nikel to tote up advances in cross-border pollution for once had something positive to report: the joint efforts seems to be working.

The results of Russia’s Year of Ecology are so far mixed, but 2017 marks a quarter century since Russia and Norway started forging an often-brittle bond of environmental cooperation.

The event in Nikel – a company town to the Kola Mining and Metallurgy Company with a history of grievous pollution – was entitled “Days of Russian Norwegian near border cooperation,” and presented a best-foot-forward program that checked off several bilateral success stories. Continue Reading →

Sherritt International fined $1 million for coal mine spills in 2011 and 2012 – by Kim Trynacity (CBC News Edmonton – October 4, 2017)

Mining giant Sherritt International Corp. has pleaded guilty to three violations under the Fisheries Act for spills in 2011 and 2012 of potentially harmful wastewater into a tributary of the Erith River, part of the Athabasca River watershed.

The company was fined a total of $1,050,000, of which $990,000 will be paid to the Environmental Damages Fund, used for research and preservation of fish habitat.

“It’s a deterrent for any corporation when you have over a $1 million fine,” said Erin Eacott, counsel with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. Eacott said had the company been charged after penalties under the Fisheries Act were substantially increased, it would have faced a much stiffer penalty. Continue Reading →

[Australia Coal Mine] The hunt for Adani’s 10,000 jobs brings up ‘zero results’ – by Charis Chang ( – September 27, 2017)

THERE’S a bit of an in-joke among Townsville residents about Adani’s mega coal mining project that if you ask them to explain, is an instant conversation killer. The first time I hear it is from a local scientist touching on some potential environmental concerns linked to the construction of railway line.

“Not having a go at it (the mine) but just making a point,” he says. “Coming from Townsville I’d be shot if I had a go at it.” There’s laughter among those listening but when I ask him later to clarify, the conversation takes on a serious tone and he’s reluctant to expand further.

He tells me opinion within Townsville is split and when I ask him if he feels he can’t be open he says: “I just feel like without having all the information I wouldn’t want to judge either way”. Continue Reading →

Barrier put in mine that sent toxic water into 3 states – by Dan Elliott (Montreal Gazette – September 20, 2017)

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – DENVER — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is installing a barrier and valve inside an inactive Colorado mine to prevent another surge of wastewater like a 2015 blowout that contaminated rivers in three states.

The 12-inch (30-centimetre) valve will regulate wastewater pouring from the Gold King Mine in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where the EPA inadvertently triggered a wastewater spill while excavating at the mine entrance in August 2015.

That spill released 3 million gallons (11 million litres) of wastewater containing aluminum, iron and other heavy metals and instantly became a major embarrassment for the EPA. Continue Reading →

Elements of bio-mining: Engineering collaboration aims to turn mine waste into valuable metals – by Tyler Irving (U of T Engineering News – September 13, 2017)


They are invisible to the naked eye, able to withstand extreme conditions and capable of breathing rocks. They are the microbes that thrive in tailings ponds at mining sites around the world, and a team of Canadian researchers believes they are the key to transforming waste material into something much more valuable.

“There are bugs that thrive on metabolizing sulfur, others on metabolizing iron,” says Professor Vladimiros Papangelakis (ChemE). “If we can control such biochemical reactions, we could both remediate the waste and recover valuable metals that could pay for the cost of processing.”

Papangelakis, along with Professor Elizabeth Edwards (ChemE) is leading the Elements of Bio-mining project, a multidisciplinary collaboration between U of T Engineering, Laurentian University, and the University of British Columbia (UBC), as well as a number of technology, engineering and mining companies, including Glencore, Vale, Teck, Barrick and Hatch. Continue Reading →

State’s Abandoned Mine Lands program looks back on 30 years – by Adella Harding (Elko Daily Free Press – September 7, 2017)

Thousands of potentially dangerous deserted mine workings from the past dot Nevada’s landscape, but the state’s Abandoned Mine Lands program has been securing these sites for 30 years, decreasing related accidents and fatalities.

Over the years, people have fallen into old mines or drowned in old pit lakes, but there have been no reported accidents at abandoned mines in more than three years, thanks in part to the program. “These aren’t playgrounds,” said Robert Ghiglieri, chief of the abandoned mines program for the Nevada Division of Minerals. “It’s not worth the risk to go into these.”

From 1961 to 2011, 20 people died in accidents at abandoned mine sites. The last fatality occurred March 2011, when a 28-year-old man fell 190 feet down a mine shaft in Pershing County. The last reported abandoned mine accident was in 2013, when a 17-year-old male incurred minor injuries in a fall down a 60-foot mine shaft in Lyon County. Continue Reading →

[Canada First Nations – Historic Pollution] The Monster Underground – by Hilary Beaumont (Vice News Canada – September 6, 2017)

There are more than a thousand cases of industrial pollution affecting 335 First Nations in Canada. Some of them have serious health effects. But the governments responsible have dragged their feet for decades.

Johanne Black wants to start a legend to tell future generations about the deadly arsenic in the soil and water in N’dilo, a Dene community of 200 people in the Northwest Territories. She calls it: “The Monster Underground.”

When the Giant Gold Mine opened across Great Slave Lake in 1948, nobody warned the locals that the mine was using an especially deadly form of arsenic that dissolved easily in water. Not long after the mine opened, it emitted arsenic into the air and it settled into the snow that the children played in.

English newspapers warned of contamination, but most Dene people couldn’t read these warnings. People became sick, and according to oral evidence from elder Therese Sangris, in the spring of 1951 four children died. The details of the event are recounted in a report to the federal government, based on evidence given by local elders. Continue Reading →

How green are the batteries?: Electric car revolution boosts business for big Arctic air-polluter – by Thomas Nilsen (The Baren Observer – September 7, 2017)

Nornickel eyes sharp increase in demand for nickel and copper as tens of millions of electric cars hit the roads over the next few years. Nickel prices leap to new heights, increasing 36% over the last two months. Copper, another key metal for electric car batteries, has seen prices climb by nearly 20% since mid-summer.

That is very good news for Nornickel, one of the world’s largest suppliers of both nickel an copper. With factories on the Taymyr Peninsula and in the Murmansk region, the company’s directors are smiling all the way to the bank. And back. With workers’ salaries to be paid in rubles, and sales abroad in dollars, Nornickel is benefiting from Russia’s turbulent economy with low currency rate.

Nornickel now wants to expand sales to the electric car industry. Recently the company signed an agreement with BASF on possible supply of raw materials for future battery material production for lithium-ion batteries in Europe. Continue Reading →

Philippine lawmakers seek to ban mining in watershed areas, export of raw ore – by Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – August 25, 2017)

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine lawmakers have filed a bill seeking to ban mining in watershed areas and exports of unprocessed ores and will require miners to get legislative approval before operating, in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s pledge to overhaul the sector.

The Philippines is the world’s top nickel ore supplier but Duterte says miners pay too little tax and not enough to compensate mining communities that suffer environmental damage.

“The challenge for government is to ensure proceeds translate into sustainable development, environmental protection, and greater transparency and accountability in the mining industry,” according to the bill authored by 22 congressmen led by Pantaleon Alvarez, the speaker of the House of Representatives and a strong ally of Duterte. Continue Reading →

Nickel mining: the hidden environmental cost of electric cars – by Max Opray (The Guardian – August 24, 2017)

The extraction of nickel, mainly mined in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Russia and the Philippines, comes with environmental and health costs

As countries the world over legislate to phase out petrol and diesel cars, attention is turning to the environmental impact of mining the materials needed for electric vehicle batteries.

This additional scrutiny has largely focused on ethical concerns with cobalt and lithium supply chains, despite Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s observation last year that the lithium ion batteries his vehicles use are mostly made of nickel and graphite, with lithium itself merely “the salt on the salad”.

But the extraction of nickel – predominately mined in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Russia and the Philippines – comes at an environmental and health cost. Continue Reading →

Environmentalism: A Slippery Slope of Ignorance and Hypocrisy – by Saurabh Malkar (Modern Diplomacy – August 13, 2017)

Perusing through my morning news digest, I came across an article from The Daily Mail featuring a story on the employment of child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

While I can be chillingly apathetic to social plight, especially, when it doesn’t concern my loved ones: something I impute to my upbringing in a third world country; I was deeply moved by this story, which shed light on the horrors of artisanal cobalt mining, employing children, working in dangerous conditions, with no safety measures, and being paid a pittance. The kicker, though, of this story was that much of this cobalt would go into battery packs that would be installed in electric cars marketed to gullible, do-gooders around the world.

But, why would one want to buy cars that take hours to refuel and can only be refueled at specific points, thus, imposing a massive time cost on their usage? These contraptions don’t match in utility to gasoline-powered cars, let alone surpassing them. No wonder governments around the world are trying to get consumers to buy electric cars through purchase subsidies and tax exemptions of all sorts. Continue Reading →

No provincial charges for Mount Polley mining disaster, but possibility of federal charges remain – by Gordon Hoekstra (August 3, 2017)

The disclosure Wednesday that there will be no charges laid under B.C.’s environmental laws for Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley tailings dam failure in 2014 has environmentalists questioning whether the province’s laws are strong enough.

There remains the possibility of federal charges under the Fisheries Act, but the B.C. Conservation Officer Service has said a B.C.-federal investigation will not be complete by Friday — when the three-year time limit to lay charges under B.C.’s Environmental Management Act ends.

The B.C. conservation service-led investigation — involving a dedicated team of officers and several federal investigators — started almost immediately after the Aug. 4, 2014, failure of the earth-and-rock dam at the gold-and-copper mine northeast of Williams Lake. Continue Reading →

No provincial charges in 2014 Mount Polley dam collapse in B.C. – by Camille Bains (Globe and Mail – August 2, 2017)

VANCOUVER — Canadian Press – There will be no provincial charges for a tailings dam collapse in British Columbia but the province’s new environment minister says a mining company may still be held responsible through federal laws.

George Heyman said Wednesday the August 2014 disaster has had tremendous economic and environmental consequences and British Columbians deserve to know what went wrong at the Mount Polley mine located in the province’s Interior.

“A disaster like this should never have happened in B.C., and it must never happen again,” Heyman said in a statement, adding that charges under the federal Fisheries Act“ remain very much in play and, in fact, potential penalties are more significant.” Continue Reading →