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

After Rainforest Victory for Brazil’s Environmentalists, a Mining Battle Looms – by R.T. Watson (Bloomberg News – June 21, 2017)

Opponents of unbridled development of Brazil’s Amazon region scored a victory this week when environmentalists fronted by supermodel Gisele Bundchen persuaded President Michel Temer to veto legislation that would have removed protections on more than 1 million acres. A battle over Amazon land about 300 times that size may be looming.

The mining ministry has proposed legislation that would end a nearly 40-year ban on foreign-owned mining companies operating on land near the roughly 16,000-kilometer (10,000-mile) border. The zone, which extends about 150 kilometers inland, accounts for 27 percent of Brazil’s national territory, according to the mining ministry.

Because most of Brazil’s western border also incorporates parts of the world’s largest rainforest, the amount of Amazon biome in the border zone would total more than 1.7 million square kilometers, an area about the size of Alaska, or more than twice the size of Texas. Continue Reading →

Urbanisation and sustainability: Can sand mining ever be green? – by Molly Lempriere (Verkict – June 20, 2017)

As urbanisation increases so does the demand for sand in construction, making it the most mined resource on earth. The result has been widespread ecological devastation, as riverbanks and waterways are stripped of their foundations.

With no population decline in sight, can sand mining be made sustainable? Demand for sand is high as rapid urbanisation in China and India has created a boom for the mining industry. Fuelled by this, illegal mining has grown, unnoticed and unchecked around the world, destroying ecosystems, waterways and beaches.

Though a seemingly plentiful resource, only certain kinds of sands are actually useful for construction purposes. Desert sand, for example, isn’t suitable for either construction or use as silicon due to its worn, rounded edges, so instead it is river banks and beaches that are being plundered. Continue Reading →

People and Wildlife Are Both Casualties of Illicit Mining – by Richard Ruggiero (National Geographic – May 24, 2017)

Central Africa’s natural treasures are a blessing. They are also a curse.

A Voice for Elephants – The vast Congo Basin — spanning six Central African countries – supports more than 10,000 animal and 600 tree species, many of which are unique to this area. The region represents the second largest contiguous moist tropical forest in the world and provides critical habitat to the last populations of several globally important species, including African forest elephants and three of the world’s four species of great apes.

Despite its vast size and relative intactness, Congo’s forest area and wildlife are under severe threat. Between 2002 and 2011, forest elephants experienced a devastating 62 percent population decline and a 30-percent loss of range. The Grauer’s gorilla — the world’s largest primate — which is only found in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), suffered staggering declines.

In the span of one generation, their numbers dropped by 77 percent across their range. In Kahuzi-Biega National Park, they fared even worse — plummeting by 87 percent. 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 →

Global Warming Costs Mount as Heatwave Hits Chile’s Glaciers – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – April 27, 2017)

(Bloomberg) — High, high up in the Andes mountains above Chile’s capital, at the foot of the glaciers that date from the last ice age, the temperatures were almost balmy this summer. That threatens long-term water supplies to the city of seven million spread out on the plain below.

At the Olivares Alfa glacier, 4,420 meters above sea level, temperatures rose above 10 Celsius on several days in January and rarely fell below zero, said Andres Rivera, a glaciologist at the Center of Scientific Studies in Valdivia. “It is not rare to have above-zero temperatures during summer, but high temperatures day and night, for several days in a row, that was unprecedented,” Rivera said.

The glaciers that supply much of Santiago’s water over the hot, dry summer months shrunk by a quarter to 380 square kilometers in the 30 years to 2013/14, according to a study by the Universidad de Chile. Continue Reading →

Water scarcity, pollution to take shine off Latin American mining sector – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – April 11, 2017)

Water supply concerns and pollution in Latin America will drive increasingly strict environmental regulations in the region over the coming years, which in turn will also make miners’ life more difficult, a report by BMI Research shows.

According to the analysts, in addition to raising costs for mining companies and delaying certain projects, the focus on the amount of water used by the extraction industry will heightened social pressure on firms operating in the area.

A recent example of this trend is what happened in El Salvador, which last month passed a law that bans all mining for gold and other metals in the country, in an effort to protect its environment, particularly its water streams. Continue Reading →

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

Microbes play a huge part in mining, both good and bad. But thanks to a new study by the University of British Columbia, which successfully identified and isolated the microbes responsible for acid rock drainage, the good may soon outweigh the bad. Molly Lempriere finds out what microbes to look for.

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). Continue Reading →

The green revolution; a double-edged sword for metal markets – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – April 5, 2017)

On March 29, El Salvador made a little bit of history. The tiny Central American country passed a law banning all exploration, mining and processing of metals. Without exception. It is the first nation to do so.

The decision, which enjoys broad popular support, is all the more remarkable given the parlous state of the country’s economy. But in a public debate that pitted water supplies against economics, water won.

The decision will not affect any metals supply chain. There are no major mines in the country, although one was planned. El Salvador has specific issues with water. Its Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources estimates that 90 percent of surface water is contaminated. Continue Reading →

Sapphire rush overwhelms remote Madagascar rainforests – by Edward Carver (Toronto Star – April 2, 2017)

The Associated Press – ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR—A sapphire rush has brought tens of thousands of people into the remote rainforests of eastern Madagascar, disfiguring a protected environmental area and prompting calls for military intervention.

More high-quality sapphires have been found in the biodiverse area known as Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena in the past six months than were found in the entire country over the past 20 years, according to Vincent Pardieu, a French gemologist who has been visiting mines there for more than a decade and was in the area last month.

“I can tell you this is big,” Pardieu said. Gem trade shows around the world now have “nice, big, super-clean sapphires” from the region. “It’s the most important discovery in Madagascar for the past 20 or 30 years.” Continue Reading →

El Salvador, Prizing Water Over Gold, Bans All Metal Mining – by Gene Palumbo and Elisabeth Malkin (New York Times – March 29, 2017)

SAN SALVADOR — Lawmakers in El Salvador voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to prohibit all mining for gold and other metals, making the country the first in the world to impose a nationwide ban on metal mining, environmental activists said.

Declaring that El Salvador’s fragile environment could not sustain metal mining operations, legislators across the political spectrum approved the ban, which had broad support, particularly from the influential Roman Catholic Church.

Supporters said the law was needed to protect the country’s dwindling supply of clean water. “Today in El Salvador, water won out over gold,” Johnny Wright Sol, a legislator from the center-right Arena party, wrote on Twitter. Continue Reading →

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 →