Archive | Mining Environmental and Water Shortage Issues

Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve probably never heard of – by Vince Beiser (The Guardian – February 27, 2017)

Times are good for Fey Wei Dong. A genial, middle-aged businessman based near Shanghai, China, Fey says he is raking in the equivalent of £180,000 a year from trading in the humblest of commodities: sand.

Fey often works in a fishing village on Poyang Lake, China’s biggest freshwater lake and a haven for millions of migratory birds and several endangered species. The village is little more than a tiny collection of ramshackle houses and battered wooden docks.

It is dwarfed by a flotilla anchored just offshore, of colossal dredges and barges, hulking metal flatboats with cranes jutting from their decks. Fey comes here regularly to buy boatloads of raw sand dredged from Poyang’s bottom. He ships it 300 miles down the Yangtze River and resells it to builders in booming Shanghai who need it to make concrete. Continue Reading →

Water scarcity tops list of world miners’ worries – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.S. – February 7, 2017)

CAPE TOWN – The world’s top mining companies warned on Tuesday that assets will be stranded and investors will walk away unless they deal with water scarcity in key mining regions such as Africa, Australia and Latin America.

After the hottest global year on record in 2016, water has shot up the agenda at mining board meetings. “Investors say to us: ‘don’t talk to us about returns’; they want to know how we’re managing water,” Nick Holland, Chief Executive Officer of Gold Fields, said at an international mining conference in Cape Town.

Mining requires water at almost every stage of the process and the bulk of the assets of major mining companies are in water-stressed regions mostly in the southern hemisphere. Continue Reading →

Terra CO2: The Canadian start-up to neutralise mine acid waste – by Elly EArls ( – January 16, 2017)

A first-of-a-kind system developed in Canada could tackle two of the mining industry’s biggest environmental problems simultaneously. Elly Earls meets Dylan Jones, CEO of Terra CO2 Technologies to find out more about this carbon dioxide-busting acid rock drainage solution.

Acid rock drainage is responsible for huge financial and environmental costs for miners but a Canada-based company may have found an innovative way to tackle the problem, while simultaneously slashing operations’ carbon footprints.

Both acid rock drainage (ARD) and the CO2 emissions associated with running fossil fuel-burning electricity generators are big issues for remote mines. While the emissions contribute to the global march of climate change, ARD – or the outflow of acidic water from metal and coal mines – can harm water systems, wetlands and other environments and habitats. Continue Reading →

Unearthing Water Risks of the Global Mining Industry – by Keith Schneider, Brett Walton, Codi Kozacek (Circle Of – December 15, 2016)

Water Stress Is Factor in Global Mining Slump: Floods, dam failures, public opposition batter big hard rock mines

NEW YORK – In a disclosure that came as no surprise in Peru, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing by Newmont Mining Corporation reported last February that the big Colorado-based mineral developer was indefinitely suspending work on its mammoth Conga gold mine in the Andes mountains near Cajamarca.

Two months later the Goldman Environmental Foundation announced that one of the six winners of its annual Goldman Prize for environmental activism, among the world’s most prestigious public service awards, was Máxima Acuña, an Andes farmer and mine opposition leader.

The two events are closely tied together. In 2004, Newmont proposed to build the Conga mine not far from its existing Yanacocha copper and gold mine south of Cajamarca, which is the largest open pit gold mine in Latin America. Continue Reading →

Chest-Puffing Grouse to Test Trump’s Conservation Approach – by Jennifer A Dlouhy (Bloomberg News – December 29, 2016)

The Obama administration teed up plans to block hard-rock mining on as many as 10 million acres in the western U.S. to protect the greater sage grouse, setting up a test for Donald Trump on how he will weigh business interests and the environment.

The final decision about whether to block activity under new mining claims in sagebrush territory across six western states rests with the president-elect, but may be influenced by the draft environmental analysis and proposal the U.S. Interior Department issued Thursday.

The Obama administration determined in 2015 that the greater sage grouse didn’t warrant listing as an endangered species, yet unveiled land-use plans meant to protect the prickly sagebrush plants seen as critical to the survival of the chicken-like bird known for its colorful courtship ritual. Continue Reading →

Phosphate industry has a large footprint in Florida – by Zach Murdock (Sarasota Herald-Tribune – December 20, 2016)

SARASOTA – Four area environmental groups announced Tuesday that they plan to sue two federal agencies over approvals of more than 50,000 acres for phosphate mining across central Florida.

The groups contend the operations “irretrievably damage habitat for imperiled species, threaten water quality and forever change Florida’s landscape” in and around critical watersheds that are a major source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Southwest Florida residents, including Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The joint lawsuit will be filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, ManaSota-88, People for Protecting Peace River and Suncoast Waterkeeper against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the notice of intent to sue issued Tuesday morning. Continue Reading →

Ring-tailed lemurs face extinction amid sapphire-mining rush in Madagascar – by Ian Johnston (The Indpendent – December 21, 2016)

The ring-tailed lemur of Madagascar is “disappearing right under our noses” as the iconic animal is hunted and trapped to extinction and its forest home is destroyed by people hunting for sapphires.

Lemurs are the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet but it was thought the resourceful ring-tailed species – which featured in the hit cartoon film series Madagascar and the BBC’s recent Planet Earth II documentary – would be the last to die out.

However, despite their ability to survive in some of the harshest environments on the Indian Ocean island, they have been mostly reduced to small groups, researchers warned in a paper called Going, Going Gone: Is the Iconic Ring-railed Lemur Headed for Imminent Extirpation? in the journal Primate Conservation. Continue Reading →

Mining companies scramble to fight burdensome new EPA rule – by Barbara Mannino (Fox News – December 19, 2016)

Mining companies are fired up about a proposed federal rule change that would jack up the purse companies must have access to in order to cover any environmental damage their work might cause.

The proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changes shift the burden of financing Superfund cleanups — which are also known as National Priority List, or NPL, sites — away from the federal government to the mining facilities, a move that would cost the industry $171 million a year and save the EPA $527 million over 34 years, according to the agency’s Regulatory Impact Analysis.

Companies see an added burden as much as 20 times higher from the insurance and bonds they would be required to get, and believe the change will have a devastating impact on the economy of states like Nevada, which leads the U.S. in gold production, and other metal-mining states, most of them in the western half of the country. Continue Reading →

Obama Sets Up Water Clash With Mining Rule Trump Opposes – by Ari Natter (Bloomberg News – December 19, 2016)

The Obama administration issued new regulations to protect streams and groundwater from coal mining, a measure that’s targeted for repeal by congressional Republicans.

The industry says the U.S. Interior Department’s so-called stream protection rule will strand billions of dollars worth of coal in the ground. Even before it was issued Monday, President-elect Donald Trump had vowed to rescind it, calling it “excessive.”

The Interior Department says the rule, which updates 33-year-old regulations, will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests primarily in Appalachia. The rule will end practices that permanently pollute streams and drinking water, requiring companies to restore streams once their mining work is complete and to monitor water quality. Continue Reading →

Editorial: Mountaintop mining ban will protect Upper Cumberland (Knoxville News Sentinel – December 13, 2016)

In a victory for those who love Tennessee’s mountains, the U.S. Department of the Interior last week banned mountaintop coal mining from more than 500 miles of ridgetops in the Upper Cumberland region. The decision, six years in the making, places a 1,200-foot buffer – 600 feet on both sides of the ridgetops – from surface mining. In all, the ruling covers nearly 75,000 acres of state-managed land.

The land that will be declared off-limits to mountaintop mining is in Scott, Morgan, Anderson and Campbell counties and falls within the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and the Emory River Tract Conservation Easement.

The state petitioned the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for the declaration in 2010, three months before then-Gov. Phil Bredesen left office. In its petition, the state said mountaintop coal mining would be incompatible with existing local and state plans and would result in significant damage to cultural, scientific, aesthetic values or natural systems. Continue Reading →

Nunavut mine compromise not good enough, says wildlife group – by Steve Ducharme (Nunatsiaq News – December 12, 2016)

“Baffinland has done well to consult with communities… but there is more work to be done”

The World Wildlife Fund-Canada says contradictory statements made by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. on possible winter extensions to its marine shipping season for the Mary River mine should lead to a full environmental review from the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

“Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s new plan to extend its Arctic shipping period to Dec. 31 and its expectation to ship during winter months ‘when necessary’ should not be permitted without a full review and public hearings,” WWF Canada said in a Dec. 8 news release.

In November, Baffinland revised its “Phase II” plans for the Mary River mine, dropping a proposal to ship ore by ice breakers through the winter months, replacing it with a railroad that follows roughly the same path as the current tote road used to transports or by truck from the mine to Milne Inlet. Continue Reading →

Queensland’s new groundwater law a ‘risk’ to resource projects – miners – by Esmarie Swanepoel ( – November 18, 2016)

PERTH ( – Despite objections from the resources sector and dire warnings about the impact it will have on the development of coal projects, the Queensland Parliament has backed the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment (EPOLA) Bill.

In essence, the Bill is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the environmental assessment of underground water extraction by resource projects, while allowing for the ongoing scrutiny of the environmental impacts of underground water extraction during the operational phase of a resource project.

The Bill is also aimed at improving the ‘make good’ framework in the current Water Act, ensuring that the administering authority for the Environmental Protection Act is a decision-maker for specific applications relating to environmental authorities. Continue Reading →

New water treatment plants help secure a positive legacy (Barrick Beyond Borders – October 20, 2016)

Water treatment plants at the Pierina mine in Peru are an important part of the mine’s closure plan

As part of its mine closure obligations, Barrick’s Pierina mine has built two new water treatment plants to safeguard local water quality. The Peru-based mine, which is winding down operations after 18 years, also built a cyanide detoxification plant to treat cyanide contained in the site’s heap leach pad.

“Cyanide is often used to leach gold contained inside ore, and this was the case at Pierina,” says Jorge Lobato, Environmental and Closure Manager at Pierina. “Even when operations at Pierina come to an end, cyanide will be present in the solutions from the heap leach pad and must be treated. The cyanide detoxification plant will operate until all cyanide has been consumed or destroyed on site.”

Pierina is located about 185 miles north of Lima in a high precipitation region of Peru. Average annual rainfall is 1,200 millimeters which, combined with natural conditions of the area, make conditions ripe for acid rock drainage. Acid rock drainage refers to the acidification of water that occurs when sulfide-based ore is exposed to air and water. Continue Reading →

‘Catastrophic’ decline in Eastern lowland gorilla blamed on mining for minerals used in mobile phones – by Aislinn Laing (The Telegraph – October 20, 2016)

The Eastern lowland gorilla, the world’s greatest ape, has suffered a “catastrophic decline” in the restive Democratic Republic of Congo, blamed on mining for minerals used in mobile phones.

Scientists said the numbers in the wild have dwindled three quarters in 20 years, to just 3,800 from 17,000 before civil war first broke out in 1996, and fear that without rapid intervention, the majestic creatures could disappear altogether in the next five years.

Andrew Plumptre, of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the lead researcher on the gorilla count, said while they knew numbers had declined, the results came as a shock. “‘Back of the envelope’ calculations had predicted a 30-50 per cent decrease,” he said. “However, we received a major shock upon pulling together all the regional survey data: none of us were prepared for such a large decrease.” Continue Reading →

Nevada mine opponents take water battle to appeals court – by Benjamin Spillman (Reno Gazette Journal – October 17, 2016)

The battle to block development of a molybdenum mine in Nevada’s rural Diamond Valley is scheduled to resume Tuesday in San Francisco.

That’s where lawyers on both sides of the fight over the proposed Mt. Hope mine near Eureka will make arguments about the project opponents say will have a devastating effect on local water supplies.

“We are having some serious water issues in Diamond Valley right now so adding that mine would just be a huge mistake,” said Carolyn Bailey, whose family has been ranching and farming near the proposed mine site since 1863. Continue Reading →