Brazil to sue BHP, Vale for $5 billion in damages for dam burst

Brazil shows PNG how it should have dealt with BHP over the Ok Tedi disaster…

A combination photograph shows windows of damaged houses in Bento Rodrigues district after a dam, owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd, burst in Mariana, Brazil, November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

A combination photograph shows windows of damaged houses in Bento Rodrigues district after a dam, owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd, burst in Mariana, Brazil, November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Lisandra Paraguassu | Reuters

Brazil‘s federal and state governments plan to sue the owners of the Samarco iron ore miner for 20 billion reais ($5.24 billion/£3.5 billion)in damages caused by the burst of a tailings dam, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira told reporters on Friday.

Samarco is a joint venture between the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton Ltd, and the biggest iron ore miner, Vale SA.

The dam burst earlier this month unleashed 60 million cubic meters of mud and mine waste that devastated a village, killed at least 13 people and polluted a major river valley.

Teixeira said the suit will be filed on Monday. The proceeds will be put in a fund and used for environmental cleanup in the Rio Doce valley over 10 years, Attorney General Luís Inácio Adams said.

Samarco has already been fined 250 million reais by Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, for the disaster, which covered the flood plain in mud for 80 kilometres as well as polluting the river. Fish died and drinking water supplies for a quarter of a million people had to be closed off.

Ibama is planning additional fines against Samarco on top of the 20 billion reais in damages and clean-up charges the government is seeking, Adams said, but he did not specify an amount.

The dense orange sediment in the river reached the ocean on the weekend, hurting local tourist businesses.

The United Nations’ human rights agency said on Wednesday that the mud from the dam burst was toxic, contradicting claims by Samarco and mine co-owner BHP Billiton that the water and mineral waste posed no risk to human health.

The minister announced the lawsuit after the close of the Sao Paulo stock market. The share price of co-owner Vale fell 5.78 percent on Friday.

Vale and BHP announced earlier on Friday that they would create a fund with Samarco to help in the clean-up of the Rio Doce and its tributaries affected by the disaster. They did not detail the size of the recovery fund.

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The Devil in the Detail: An analysis of the Bougainville Mining Act


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November 28, 2015 · 9:42 am

Chinese property developer to reopen Solomon Island gold mine

The over-full tailings dam facility at the Gold Ridge Gold Mine on Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands. January 2015. At the time this was captured the water level was one metre from the brink with 3 months to go in the wet season. Photo: copyright Dr Matthew Allen - Australian National University

The over-full tailings dam facility at the Gold Ridge Gold Mine on Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands. January 2015. At the time the water level was one metre from the brink with 3 months to go in the wet season. Photo: Dr Matthew Allen – Australian National University

Solomons gold mine to reopen in 2016

Radio New Zealand

Landowning tribes in Solomon Islands say they will reopen the Gold Ridge gold mine in 2016, two years after flash flooding forced its closure.

This comes as the mine’s former Australian owner, St Barbara recently handed over a new water treatment facility to allow the release of treated water from the mine’s overfull tailings dam.

The chairperson of Gold Ridge Community Investments Limited, Walton Naezon, says water treatment will begin immediately with the aim of reducing levels in the dam by a metre over the next three months.

Mr Naezon says the company is in talks with Australian based Chinese company AXF Group to take on the mine’s operation in 2016.

“Once we have got the heads of agreement signed the partner will actually control the mine with us. And the works should start straightaway next month and the actual exploration and other activities will take quickly in the first quarter of next year.”

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Fiji: Wainunu Resource Owners Committee [WROC] says NO TO MINING.

daria children Wainunu Bua

The Future – Children of Daria Village – Wainunu, Bua, Fiji Islands. By Mosese Rabinaivalu – Wainunu.

Wainunu District in Bua, Fiji Islands has formed a committee called Wainunu Resource Owner’s Committee [WROC]. The committee comprised of key district Chiefs and heads of landowning unit clans [Turaga ni Yavusa, Turaga ni mataqali] and landowners whose land have deposits of Bauxites and other aggregated minerals and resources.

The role of this committee is to act as a body to provide direction, training, education and voice for the people of Wainunu in terms of development, conservation and utilization of their resources. Also and most importantly are the interests of Resources owners and how these resources are managed for survival in both shorter and longer terms keeping in mind the future generations of Wainunu and the neighboring districts in Bua.

WROC and various other Resource owners disagreed with the article regarding Bauxite mining in Wainunu on Fiji Times, Wednesday 9th of September this year made by District Chief – Ratu Orisi Baleitavea. Resource Owners in Wainunu were really shocked when they read it in the Fiji Times because  there was no consultation with landowners done and there was no landowners meeting [Bose Vanua] was held regarding this issue. In realty and the truth none of the Chinese Company that was mentioned in the Fiji Times has conducted consultation in Wainunu in regards to Prospecting Exploration licenses.

At the moment the Committee is conducting consultation and awareness regarding this issue in Wainunu and gathering all relevant information which will assist them to put in place a Natural Resources Management Strategies.

Though Wainunu may have the largest Bauxite deposits and of the highest quality, Resource Owners will not be easily moved to give up their land for mining because all deposits are located in the interior and on the ridges and there are many creeks and tributaries that feed the Wainunu River.

Wainunu people depend a lot on the land and water resources for survival. We are core yaqona and dalo farmers and if we give up our land for mining it will have an adverse impact on the sustainability of our farming areas, rivers, fishing grounds and source of drinking water. Also fishing grounds of neighboring two districts Kubulau and Nadi will also be affected and landowners do not want to take the risks. Apart from Agricultural Farming Wainunu Resource Owner’s Committee have explored other avenues of sustainable alternative livelihoods and some are already in place.

Presently  Land  Owners said NO to Bauxite Mining and in the future if any statement  to be published in any media  outlet of company  regarding  Bauxite mining and other aggregated  resources or any development programs  in the area, it has to come from the Wainunu Resource Owners Committee  – WROC and no one else.

We, the Land owners have experienced in the past that Developers and their consultants made false promises. Developers use their resources to make profit and consultants filling their pockets leaving landowners with no benefits. So to avoid all these deficiencies, any development to take place in the area should go through the Board of Wainunu Resource Owners Committee for the benefit of their future generation.


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Mine Disasters show real cost of using cheap solutions for waste storage

In PNG it seems we always let the mining companies take the cheapest option – river or marine waste dumping or a tailings dam. The companies make huge profits but it is local people and the environment that shoulder the costs But there are better solutions if only our politician and regulators weren’t so weak…

BHP's Brazil mine disaster is another example of mining companies putting profits before people

BHP’s Brazil mine disaster is another example of mining companies putting profits before people

Danielle Bochove | Insurance Journal

As miners globally review the way they store waste in the wake of another horrific dam spill, the solution may be as simple as it is dramatic: spend a lot more.

Images of sludge spewing into towns and rivers could be a thing of the past if mines used different types of storage such as removing water or building on more stable ground. While that can be as much as 10 times costlier for companies already squeezed by slumping prices, the cost is much higher when things go wrong.

The cleanup bill for the Nov. 5 spill at the Samarco iron-ore venture in Brazil, owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA, probably will exceed $1 billion, on top of years of lost output, Deutsche Bank AG said.

“A failure is a lot more expensive than doing it right,” said Dirk van Zyl, professor of mining engineering at the University of British Columbia and one of three experts on a panel into a dam spill in Canada last year.

The Samarco breach, which propelled about 13 billion gallons of mud into communities below, comes a year after Imperial Metals Corp.’s Mount Polley mine in Canada also dumped billions of gallons into lakes and rivers. A common trait in the two cases was the fluidity of the waste.

‘Thorough Review’

Samarco says its dams were deemed safe in a July inspection and that it’s too early to determine reasons for the spill. On Monday, BHP Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie said the company is “carrying out a thorough review of all of our dam facilities of scale.” On the same day, Vale said it’s open to improvements, even after concluding that its other installations, which use state-of-the-art safety practices, were fully compliant.

Tailings are the ground rock and effluents left over after milling. And when it comes to storage, the dryer the better, van Zyl said in a telephone interview.

Dry-stack tailings facilities, used in Chile where earthquakes are common, can cost 10 times more than so-called upstream ponds, in which discharged tailings become the foundation for future embankment raises, van Zyl said. The next best option, building storage on virgin ground and limiting the amount of water, could cost twice as much, he said.

Economic Driver

Still, those higher investment and operating costs pale next to the expenses associated with a catastrophic accident.

“When you allow economics to be the primary driver we’re going to see more safety-related incidents, and that’s what’s happening,” said David Chambers, president of the Center for Science in Public Participation, a non-profit group based in Bozeman, Montana.

When asked if any of the dams used upstream construction, Samarco’s owners referred questions to Samarco, which didn’t provide a response. Alberto Sayao, a civil engineering professor at the Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro and a board member of non-governmental organization Brazilian Dam Committee, said the dam that burst, Fundao, was an “upstream heightening” design.

At Mount Polley, the upper portion of the dam was upstream, although the spill was attributed mainly to a layer of clay under one section, Chambers said. Imperial’s press department in Vancouver didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Ban Urged

Whatever the cause, there’s no doubt the damage from both breaches would have been much less if the tailings had been less fluid, Chambers said. He co-authored a study, still to be peer- reviewed, which predicts the number of catastrophic failures will increase as miners are tempted to build larger upstream ponds in order to cut costs.

Regulators need to ban upstream construction and “wet closures” of old tailings ponds, in which the water is allowed to remain, Chambers said. Asked whether the incident in Brazil shows miners need a new way to store tailings, the emergency response coordinator of environment agency Ibama said “it needs to be evaluated,” without elaborating.

The mandate of a panel into the Mount Polley case was to ensure that future large-scale tailings disasters would be impossible in Canada, rather than just to lower the probability, according to Norbert Morgenstern, the panel’s chairman.

By starting there, the focus quickly shifted to changing the nature of tailings themselves, and making them less fluid, Morgenstern said in an interview. That way, “if you have a failure, it’s not going to go very far.”

Not Feasible

How tailings should be stored will vary from location to location, Ben Chalmers, the Mining Association of Canada’s vice president of sustainable development, said in an interview. Certain sulfide-heavy tailings may be safer under some amount of water, while dry storage may not be feasible in wet climates or at very high-output mines, he said.

While dry-stack storage is expensive while a mine is operational, it is much cheaper when it comes time to close, said Chuck Jeannes, CEO of Goldcorp Inc., which uses dry-stack storage at mines in Canada, Mexico and Guatemala and has a dedicated manager in charge of tailings.

“The short answer is, yeah it’s more expensive,” he said in an interview. “But the long answer is, I don’t think it’s as much as people believe it is.”


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Five mining leases approved by Fiji government

Director of Mineral Resources Malakai Finau

Director of Mineral Resources Malakai Finau

Watisoni Butabua | Fiji Village

Five mining leases have been approved by government.

Director of Mineral Resources Malakai Finau says out of the five, only two are currently operating at the moment and that is the Bua bauxite mine and the Vatukoula Gold mine.

Finau says more than 1 million tonnes of bauxite have been exported so far for Nawailevu.

He says in terms of royalty the department has collected approximately $1.2 million.

He says more than 100 workers have been employed by Aurum Exploration Limited.

The Director for Mineral Resources for the Vatukoula Gold Mine, they have exported about 39 thousand ounce of gold last year.

Finau says they expect similar amounts this year.

He says about 1000 people are currently employed by Vatukoula Gold Mine.

He also says that government has granted mining lease to Canadian Lion One Metals Limited for the Tuvatu Gold mine in Nadi.

Finau says they are in the construction period at the moment.

He says two other mining leases have also been granted to Asia Pacific Resources Limited for the Wainivesi Gold mine in Korovou, Tailevu and Amex Resources Limited for Iron sand mine at the Ba River.

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Chinese/Canadian owned Porgera Mine resumes operations


Merolyn Ten | Post Courier

PORGERA Gold Mine in Enga Province has resumed operations at its milling and processing plants following 16 days of partial shutdown due to the recent dry weather condition.

In the latest months of severe dry weather periodS, water have run very low causing the mine to shutdown its milling and processing plants just to conserve supply.

The milling and processing plants that depend intensively on water to perform production activities at the mine were only affected, said operator Barrick (Niugini) Limited.

However, after 16 days of partial closure, the water levels at the dam at Waile Creek reached sufficient levels to start operating the plants. As the latest mine in the Asia-Pacific to be disrupted by the El Nino-driven drought, it is confirmed now that the mine is on full operations. The mine workforce arrangements were not affected as a result of the partial shutdown.

According to Barrick, the temporary shutdown only affected the milling and processing plants while all other operations at the mine were continuing as usual.

During the shutdown period, the company used the opportunity to bring forward maintenance work that would have occurred at a later date. This work was completed without any complications.

With the resumption of the milling and processing, operations at the mine remain on track to meet this year’s operational targets.

Barrick (Niugini) Limited is a company incorporated in Papua New Guinea, and operates the Porgera Gold Mine in Enga Province on behalf of the Porgera Joint Venture partners.

BNL is an independently managed company and is jointly owned through an equal partnership between Barrick Gold and Zijin Mining Group.

The Porgera Gold Mine employs more than 2500 Papua New Guineans, and over the life of the mine it has contributed about 10 per cent of PNG’s total annual exports.

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