Monthly Archives: October 2017

Mining waste dams threaten people and the environment: UN

UN Body Urges Mining Companies To Put Safety First

New UNEP report “Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident” finds mining waste dams threaten people and the environment

Earthworks, MiningWatch, Amnesty, London Mining Network | 23 October 2017

An international coalition of non-governmental organizations welcomes the new Assessment Report Summary released last week in Geneva by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which urges States and the industry to end deadly and damaging mining waste spills by enforcing a “zero-failure objective.”

The joint UNEP-GRID Arendal assessment, “Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident,” highlights over 40 mining waste failures over the last decade, including eight ‘significant’ spills since 2014 alone. These failures have killed some 341 people since 2008, damaged hundreds of kilometers of waterways, affected drinking water sources, and jeopardized the livelihoods of many communities.

The report was prompted, the authors write, by mining waste “disasters and rising global concerns about the safety, management and impacts of storing and managing large volumes of mine tailings.” They cite examples such as the Ajka-Kolontár operation in Hungary in 2010 (MAL Hungarian Aluminium), the Mount Polley disaster in Canada in 2014 (Imperial Metals), the Buena Vista Del Cobre spill in Mexico in 2014 (Grupo Mexico), the massive Samarco dam breach in Brazil in 2015 (Vale and BHP Billiton), and the very recent Tonglvshan Mine spill in China in 2017 (China Daye Ltd.).

UNEP and GRID-Arendal point to thousands of mining waste dams worldwide that pose a potential threat to people and the environment located downstream, noting that: “The increasing number and size of tailings dams around the globe magnifies the potential environmental, social and economic cost of catastrophic failure impact and the risks and costs of perpetual management. These risks present a challenge for this generation, and if not addressed now, a debt we will leave to future generations.” — UNEP-GRID Arendal Assessment Report Summary, October 2017

The summary report makes 18 recommendations, including two overarching ones:

  • “The approach to tailings storage facilities must place safety first by making environmental and human safety a priority in management actions and on-the-ground operations. Regulators, industry and communities should adopt a shared zero-failure objective to tailings storage facilities where ‘safety attributes should be evaluated separately from economic considerations, and cost should not be the determining factor’ (Mount Polley expert panel, 2015, p. 125)”
  • “Establish a UN Environment stakeholder forum to facilitate international strengthening of tailings dam regulation.”

Other recommendations include:

  • Transparency: “Establish an accessible public-interest, global database of mine sites, tailings storage facilities and research” and “Fund research into mine tailings storage failures and management of active, inactive and abandoned mine sites.”
  • Accountability: “Expand mining regulations to include independent monitoring and the enforcement of financial and criminal sanctions for non-compliance.”
  • Best Practices: “Avoid dam construction methods known to be high risk,” and “require detailed and ongoing evaluations of potential failure modes, residual risks and perpetual management costs of tailings storage facilities.”
  • Financial Securities: “Enforce mandatory financial securities for life of the mine;” “establish a global financial assurance system for mine-sites,” and “fund a global insurance pool.” Also, “ensure any project assessment or expansion publishes all externalized costs, with an independent life-of-mine sustainability cost-benefit analysis.”

The undersigned organizations support the UNEP recommendations and urge all UN member States and governments to implement them swiftly in collaboration with all concerned, including non-governmental organizations and affected communities.

The UNEP-GRID-Arendal summary report and recommendations are available here.

QUOTES

“Mine waste storage facilities are like ticking time bombs, putting communities and waterways in harm’s way in the event of catastrophic failure. Even after the Mount Polley and Samarco disasters, which should have served as urgent wake-up calls, governments and companies have done far too little to prevent future disasters. Mining trade associations have tried to create the impression for regulators and investors that mining waste containment failure has been addressed, when that is far from accurate. We welcome the independent assessment by UNEP and urge companies and governments to act on these recommendations.” Payal Sampat, Earthworks

“Catastrophic mining waste failures are on the rise worldwide and on all continents. These environmental disasters indiscriminately hit developed and developing countries alike, and clearly appear to be driven by financial factors, not technical ones. This timely and much needed UNEP assessment should act as wake-up call for all States involved in regulating the mining industry. Safety must come before costs.” Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada

“We believe the recommendations from this UNEP summary report pose a serious challenge to mining companies to improve the rigour of their management of tailings facilities. Last week, we quoted the report in a challenge to the BHP Board in their London AGM to explain how they would ensure their responsibility for rigorous waste management. Their lack of a clear answer demonstrates how far these companies still need to go.”  Richard Harkinson, London Mining Network

“The long-reaching human rights impacts of catastrophic dam failures must not be underestimated. Indigenous peoples and marginalized communities around the globe face enormous uphill struggles for justice and accountability in the wake of mining disasters. Companies must not be permitted to short-cut their human rights responsibilities for the sake of cost, nor governments abdicate their human rights obligations when approving and regulating tailings storage facilities. The UNEP assessment is a welcome acknowledgement of the importance of tailings storage safety in the protection of human rights. “ Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada  

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PNG envairaman grup bai kisim gavman igo long kot

Caroline Tiriman | Radio Australia | 23 October 2017

Wanpla laen em oli no laikim ol wok mining aninit long solwara long Bismark sea long Papua New Guinea itok bai oli kisim gavman igo long kot bihaenim ol wari long despla mine.

Odio: Peter Bosip Executive direkta blong centre for environmental law and community rights long PNG itoktok wantem Caroline Tiriman

Nautilus Minerals blong Canada i laik statim mining long ol solwara namel long East New Britain na New  Ireland province long 2019.

Sopos despla mine igo hed, em bai kamap olsem nambawan  mine em i kamap long wanpla kantri long wold, na planti pipal long PNG iet na ol narapla kantri i wari tru long wonem emi nap bringim bikpla heve tru long ol pipal blong despla tupla provins.

Despla grup, Solwara warriors alliance i laikim gavman long givim ol documents em gavman na kampani igat long environment  na ol wonem samting oli nap mekim long stretim heve emi nap kamap long solwara blong larim ol pipal i lukim.

Peter Bosip Executive direkta blong centre for environmental law and community rights long Port Moresby itokim Radio Australia olsem, ol pipal blong PNG imas save gut long wonem ol kaen heve em despla mine bai kamapim na tu wonem kaen ol gutpla samting em despla mine inap bringim long PNG.

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Large-scale Mines and Local Politics: Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea

Download the chapters in PDF format

  1. Large-Scale Mines and Local‑Level Politics (PDF, 0.2MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur 
  2. From Anticipation to Practice: Social and Economic Management of a Nickel Plant’s Establishment in New Caledonia’s North Province (PDF, 0.8MB) – Jean-Michel Sourisseau, Sonia Grochain and David Poithily 
  3. Social and Environmental Transformations in the Neighbourhood of a Nickel Mining Project: A Case Study from Northern New Caledonia (PDF, 1.7MB) – Matthias Kowasch 
  4. The Boakaine Mine in New Caledonia: A Local Development Issue? (PDF, 0.1MB) – Christine Demmer 
  5. Conflict and Agreement: The Politics of Nickel in Thio, New Caledonia (PDF, 0.1MB) – Pierre-Yves Le Meur 
  6. Contesting the Goro Nickel Mining Project, New Caledonia: Indigenous Rights, Sustainable Development and the Land Issue (PDF, 0.2MB) – Claire Levacher 
  7. Dissecting Corporate Community Development in the Large-Scale Melanesian Mining Sector (PDF, 0.4MB) – Glenn Banks, Dora Kuir-Ayius, David Kombako and Bill F. Sagir 
  8. Negotiating Community Support for Closure or Continuation of the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – Colin Filer and Phillipa Jenkins 
  9. Disconnected Development Worlds: Responsibility towards Local Communities in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – John Burton and Joyce Onguglo 
  10. Gender Mainstreaming and Local Politics: Women, Women’s Associations and Mining in Lihir (PDF, 0.1MB) – Susan R. Hemer 
  11. Migrants, Labourers and Landowners at the Lihir Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea (PDF, 1.4MB) – Nicholas A. Bainton 
  12. Bougainville: Origins of the Conflict, and Debating the Future of Large-Scale Mining (PDF, 0.2MB) – Anthony J. Regan 
  13. Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.1MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur 

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Harmony is over its near-death experience

Harmony Gold CEO Peter Steenkamp. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Allan Seccombe | Business Day | 20 October 2017

Harmony Gold’s recovery from a “near-death experience” a few years ago was further evidenced by its bold R4.1bn purchase of a suite of gold and uranium assets from AngloGold Ashanti and positioning the company to make a decision on what to do with the Golpu copper and gold project in Papua New Guinea.

Harmony CEO Peter Steenkamp hailed the purchase of the profitable Moab Khotsong mine and its sister Great Noligwa mine, which was mothballed, along with 70-million tonnes of gold-carrying tailings and the entire Nufcor — SA’s only uranium calcining operation, which treats material from Moab and third parties.

Nufcor is SA’s only uranium calcining operation, which treats material from Moab and third parties.

“When I got the job two years ago, Harmony was in very big trouble. It had very high levels of debt of R5bn, half its market capitalisation.

“It had a near-death experience, but since then we’ve stabilised our production at 1-million ounces a year, a sustainable level, we’ve done good acquisitions at Hidden Valley in Papua New Guinea and now these assets from AngloGold,” Steenkamp said.

Analysts said Harmony was paying a full price for the AngloGold assets, including Nufcor, which Steenkamp said he doubted Harmony would keep considering the prevailing low uranium price of about $20 per pound.

“There is lots of value that can be unlocked, but this will require capital and a bit more risk in terms of mining, as a lot of this upside will come from mining pillars not in the AngloGold plan,” said Nedbank mining analyst Arnold van Graan.

“Pillar mining obviously carries a higher safety risk, but Harmony is expert in pillar mining. From the market’s perspective though, there is probably a perception that the risk increases,” Van Graan said.

While the purchase of the cash-generative Moab puts Harmony in a better position when it comes to deciding on Golpu, Steenkamp sounded an unusually noncommittal note when referring to a great asset and one for which a final feasibility study is under way and due for completion in 2018.

“If we have to put 50% of the capital in we will never have that kind of money.

“If the Papua New Guinea government takes their 30% of Golpu, then we can have a look at what we have.

“Everyone sees Golpu as a threat for Harmony, but it’s not. It’s an opportunity. We could sell right out of Golpu, or we could remain partially in the project or keep our full stake,” Steenkamp said.

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Signs of lasting trauma in people evicted to make way for giant mine in Ecuador

Shuar women have been the sole residents of Tsuntsuim since most of the men have gone into hiding following warrants for their arrest after they fought against eviction from the village. Photograph: Kimberley Brown

Battles with the government and army over land and mining rights has caused indigenous Shuar people long-term psychological damage, report says

Kimberley Brown | The Guardian | 17 October 2017

Months after they were evicted from their homes to make way for a mine, almost half the population of an Ecuadorian village is suffering from psychological damage, experts have said.

Psychiatrists found 42% of the indigenous Shuar people of Tsuntsuim village suffering from mental health problems and trauma. Many of the villagers had been involved in violent confrontations with Ecuador’s military as they were removed from their homes.

The mental ordeal has manifested itself in depression, severe headaches, insomnia, tremors and tachycardia (a racing heart rate). Trauma caused by the displacement and anxiety about what would happen to them next were the main triggers for these symptoms, said the authors of the report, which was released by a group of doctors, psychiatrists and indigenous rights activists.

Children were particularly traumatised by the noise of the helicopters and drones that had circled overhead during the eviction, according to medical researchers.

Residents said the soldiers destroyed crops and set animals loose. “They were left without any kind of economic or food options and were pushed into forced migration,” said Fernanda Solíz, one of the report’s authors and a doctor with the Movement for the Health of the Peoples of Latin America. “This is a process of impoverishment and a loss of subsistence and sovereignty.”

People began returning to their homes in Tsuntsuim in May, five months after they were forcibly removed, when military and police abandoned their posts there. Photograph: Kimberley Brown

Tsuntsuim is one of the latest communities affected by Ecuador’s mining industry, which is being promoted as necessary for growth in the developing nation. According to Ecuadorian law, everything in the ground belongs to the state. The money earned from extracting its bounty – be it minerals or petroleum – funds public services.

But researchers say the opposite is true. “This development model impacts communities,” said Erika Arteaga, a doctor with the Latin American Association of Social Medicine (Alames), a co-author of the report. “The mine displaces people, and the impact is direct. It’s this industry that makes children lack nutrition.”

The territorial conflict around Tsuntsuim peaked in August 2016 when those living in the Shuar village of Nankints were forcibly evicted from their homes by the army because they were living on the site for the planned San Carlos Panantza copper mine.

Ecuadorian government officials claim the Shuar had no land rights and were living there illegally, while the Shuar community claim the region as part of their ancestral land.

After the eviction, residents made several attempts to re-enter Nankints leading to an aggressive standoff with the authorities in December 2016. The then president, Rafael Correa, called a state of emergency in the province of Morona Santiago and sent in extra forces, who raided homes and made several arrests in Tsuntsuim, where most of the people from Nankints had fled. Nankints is now a military protected mining camp, surrounded by barbed-wire fencing.

“We suffered a lot,” said Maria Natalia Nankamai, who was chased out of both Nankints and Tsuntsuim. “The kids were screaming when the helicopters flew overhead, but we couldn’t do anything.” She stayed with relatives for months before moving back to Tsuntsuim in May.

Shuar children who returned with their families play in Tsuntsuim. Photograph: Kimberley Brown

The Shuar have been resisting major development projects in the area for more than 10 years – not only to save their homes but also because they have begun to benefit from mining for gold on a small scale.

Guillermo Nayash, a local resident, said artisanal mining allows him to work independently and under better conditions than working in a large mining company, or doing manual labour in the cities.

But small-scale mining continues to be controversial among community members – many believe the rights of nature and sustainability should come first.

Tensions in the region have recently subsided as the Panantza copper mine project has stalled. The Shuar hope they can reach a deal with the new government of Lenín Moreno – who became president in May – to stop its development.

The Ecuadorian government did not respond to a request by the Guardian to comment.

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BCL appoint war cabinet for new Bougainville onslaught

In the race to reopen the Panguna mine, against the will of landowners, BCL is now appointing a war cabinet.

Having already appointed Director, ‘Sir’ Rabbie Namaliu, a man who was Prime Minister when his government’s security forces committed crimes against humanity on Bougainville, BCL has now appointed two new Directors, Mel Togolo and Peter Graham.

Togolo was a provincial administrator during the crisis. He was infamous for his support for an Australian backed military blockade, that denied his own compatriots basic medicines. Togolo also worked alongside Jim Griffin an Australian government spook, responsible for intelligence analysis on Bougainville. More recently Togolo has become known for his role in deep sea mining, which threatens to inflict another environmental catastrophe on the region.

Peter Graham is the General behind ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG operation, a project that gives new meaning to pipe dreams. More recently he has acted as O’Neill’s right hand man at Ok Tedi.

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Pacific Islands forum supports calls to phase out coal

Sikeli Qounadovu | The Fiji Times | October 19, 2017

THE Pacific Islands Development Forum fully supports the call by Canada and the UK to phase out coal.

PIDF secretary general Francois Martel urged other developed nations to unite and implement the transition from unabated coal fired electricity and support the Pacific call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“We congratulate Canada and the United Kingdom for championing a global alliance on coal-phase out and encourage other developed countries such as Australia to support this initiative,” he said.

“On one hand, we need to provide support to Pacific countries to ensure they can reach the targets set in the Paris Agreement, on the other hand, we need to pursue advocacy and engagement to ensure that what fell off the negotiations in Paris to achieve the main targets of 1.5 degree Celsius are now fully addressed.”

Mr Martel said much faster and decisive action was needed to phase out coal and prevent coal lock-in and the greater risk of stranded coal mining and coal power station assets and big amounts of already available stocks of coal.

“Urgency and high ambition for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions need to remain the top priority on the agenda — financing adaptation by development partners should not be the fall-out position for paying lip-service to reducing emissions, nor does it follow the spirit and the letter of the Paris Agreement as ratified,” said the PIDF secretary general.

Canada strives to have 90 per cent of electricity from non-emitting sources by 2030.

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