Monthly Archives: January 2019

‘Brazil learned nothing’: Another deadly dam collapse raises questions about Bolsonaro’s plans to expand mining

In November 2015, Brazil experienced a deadly dam collapse at the Samarco mine in Mariana. Nothing was done. Three-and-a-half years later, after another deadly dam collapse, questions remain around regulations for the mining industry

Near the Brazilian town of Brumadinho is a dam, designed to hold back waste from a mining company. On Jan. 25, it burst. Millions of cubic metres of reddish-brown water and mud devastated the town. Trains were knocked from their tracks. Homes were destroyed. Dozens were killed. Authorities have arrested three employees of Vale S.A., which owns the mine, and two contractors. It was a tragedy foretold, but very little was done to prevent it. The Globe’s Latin America Bureau Chief, Stephanie Nolen, explains what this natural disaster means for Brazil.

Stephanie NolenThe Globe and Mail | January 29, 2019

A month after a tailings dam collapsed and killed 19 people in the Brazilian town of Mariana in November, 2015, the legislature in the state of Minas Gerais gathered to consider new mining legislation.

Congress members meeting 100 kilometres from the site of the disaster at the Samarco mine voted to reduce the role given to the Ministerio Publico, a government agency that typically advocates for environmental, Indigenous and public-safety considerations, in approving new mining projects.

Of the 77 members in the state congress that passed the measure, 59 had received significant campaign contributions from the mining industry.

Three-and-a-half years later, a second dam has collapsed, in the town of Brumadinho – the same kind of dam, owned by the same company, at another iron ore mine just 140 kilometres away. This time, 84 people are confirmed dead, and nearly 300 are missing, and now, four days later, presumed dead.

“Brazil learned nothing from Mariana,” said Cristina Serra, a Brazilian journalist and author of The Tragedy at Mariana, an investigation into the first dam collapse.

“The company didn’t do what they should have done: There were giant quantities of risky material that they needed to monitor with the greatest rigour, and it’s obvious that wasn’t happening. And then the public oversight didn’t happen in the way it should have. … Then nobody was punished, there was total impunity. And that’s why three years later, we have all these deaths.”

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: international disasters charter; map information provided by cenad (National Center of risk and diaster management; vale; openstreetmap; tilezen; googlemaps

Police have arrested three employees of Vale S.A., which owns the Brumadinho mine, and two contractors, in connection with the Jan. 25 collapse. The public prosecutor says the Vale employees were involved in obtaining licensing approval for the project (which Vale recently sought to expand), while the contractors work for a German firm that performed safety studies and concluded the dam was sound. They will be held for an initial 90 days pending the laying of formal charges.

If they or others are charged, it will be a sharp departure from the way the Mariana disaster was handled. A federal criminal case is proceeding at a glacial pace: It has 21 accused, more than 400 witnesses, and involves technical issues of great complexity, but it is overseen by a single judge in a small town in Minas Gerais, and the federal prosecutor’s office did not assign a support task force or a formal inquiry, Ms. Serra said.

In addition, lawyers for executives at Samarco (jointly owned by Vale and BHP Billiton Ltd.) have filed motions questioning the validity of evidence; the case could drag on for years. Environmental crimes in Brazil face a sort of statute of limitations, which Ms. Serra predicted will be reached with no judgment in the Mariana case.

Samarco was fined $129-million by Brazil’s environmental agency and the state of Minas Gerais, but has appealed the fines and has not paid yet.

The Samarco dam, which was the height of a 30-storey building, released five times as much mining waste as the dam at Brumadinho – it poisoned a river system and polluted the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people, sending a tide of reddish-brown toxic sludge 400 kilometres to the sea.

But the casualty rate in Brumadinho is dramatically higher because more people were directly in the path of the dam: It loomed over a cafeteria where dozens of workers were gathered for lunch when the wall of toxic mud suffocated them. “It’s ridiculous, absurd – those people should never have been there, it’s not permitted,” Ms. Serra said. “We have a decent mining law in this country, but it is not enforced.”

Ms. Serra’s investigation after the Samarco incident found that in 2016, the National Mining Agency had a total of five specialists tracking tailing dams – of which the country has 663, including 460 in in Minas Gerais.

The 86-metre Corrego do Feijao dam at Brumadinho, built in 1976, was no longer receiving tailings, and independent contractors hired by Vale had evaluated it for safety as recently as December. Vale received permission that same month to expand the mine complex in an approvals process that had been made less stringent since the Samarco incident. (In one change since the 2015 disaster, however, Brazilian politicians are no longer allowed to receive electoral funding from private businesses.)

First responders survey the muddied landscape to assess the damage and look for survivors. FRANCISCO PRONER/FARPA/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Antonio de Assis Nunes, a farmer in Brumadinho, says he lost 90 per cent of his land. ‘My whole life is now under the ground …’

‘… If it were a natural disaster I would not complain. God and nature know what they do. But what you see today happened because of man’s thirst for money.’

When the dam gave way, it sent a wall of wet mud through the Vale administrative complex and nearby residential areas and into the Paraopeba River. The blanket of sludge, which leaves anyone near it with burning eyes and an itchy throat, is nearly four kilometres wide and stretches more than 10 kilometres over what was a sleepy town where big white cows occasionally strayed into the street and farmers sold cheese and preserves from small stands at the end of driveways on low green hills.

The disaster came less than a month after Jair Bolsonaro took over Brazil’s presidency; in his campaign, he pledged to loosen environmental restrictions on private industry and expand mining across the country, including on Indigenous territory and in the Amazon. He had proposed to scrap the Environment Ministry, and when he was dissuaded from that plan, he gave the post of minister to Ricardo Salles, a lawyer who was convicted of altering maps to benefit a mining company while he was environment minister in the government of the state of Sao Paulo.

The Bolsonaro government has been sending mixed signals about how it will proceed since the disaster. Mr. Salles has mused to reporters that Brazil may need to change how it requires mines to handle tailings, and scrap the wet dam method – a requirement that will be costly for mining companies. The reservoir-and-tailings-dam system is banned in some countries, including next-door Chile, where mining is a pillar of the economy.

Brazil’s prosecutor-general, Raquel Dodge (who was not in the job when the Samarco collapse occurred), said earlier this week that Vale’s executives could be “severely punished” and may face criminal charges. Vice-President Hamilton Mourao suggested the government could insist that Vale’s board of directors resign (the government is the company’s largest shareholder).

The National Mining Agency has frozen an initial $1.8-billion of Vale’s assets to pay for cleanup and damages. The company’s shares fell more than 20 per cent on the Brazilian exchange when trading began on Monday, three days after the collapse.

A tailings dam is built, in theory, to be a permanent structure: The most common kind are made of dirt, pushed into place in successive layers by bulldozers, and they hold back reservoirs of sludgy leftovers from the extraction and milling of minerals. There is always a certain content of water in the sludge, which slowly erodes the dam and requires new dirt to be pushed into place.

Ms. Serra said one of the darkest lessons from the tragedy at Mariana was how quickly Brazilians forgot what was, until this week, the country’s biggest environmental disaster. “In six months, when the press aren’t there every day covering it – I can totally imagine that the government could succeed with a change in the [environmental] law just like they want. This government has a very ambitious agenda and mining companies have great political and economic power in this country.”


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Foreign miners to hold state’s equity: O’Neill

Cedric Patjole | Loop PNG | January 30, 2019

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says understandings have been reached with Papua LNG developer Total E&P PNG and the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture (WGJV) to hold State’s equity until the first export from both projects.

This is to ensure the state does not borrow to purchase equity in a project.

“The initial understanding we have with the second LNG and in particular Wafi-Golpu is that our participation in equity will be carried by the developer until the first export of either the gold and copper from Wafi-Golpu or in the second LNG Project, meaning we don’t have to borrow large sums of money that we are unable to repay.

“This is our resource, the developer has to carry us to a certain extent. I’m thankful that Total and Newcrest have agreed to those understanding and we are looking forward to our Ministerial committee finalising the development agreement that will make sure the resource owners are fully participating rather than waiting for loans to be paid and of course, the benefits rolling out to them,” said O’Neill.

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Mysterious Australian Businessman Swoops on Bougainville’s Minerals

A recent Caballus Mining meeting on Bougainville

News reports suggest a mysterious Australian businessman, Jeffrey McGlinn, is the sponsor of a major amendment to Bougainville’s Mining Act. McGlinn is said to be behind the company Caballus Mining, and is proposing to set up a local firm, Bougainville Advance Mining or BAM.

According to Radio New Zealand, the McGlinn group ‘wanted to shortcut a number of what it calls complicated requirements in the [Mining] act to fast track vital infrastructure development in Bougainville and boost employment ahead of the referendum on independence from PNG, due in June this year’.

A major report from the ground, included below, has gone so far as to suggest the McGlinn consortium plans to seize control of all major mineral deposits across Bougainville.

If true, this appears to be yet another scheme cooked up by the Momis government with foreigners, to make quick bucks under the banner of independence preparations. 

Worryingly, McGlinn it can be confirmed, is linked to a Somali national, Mr Qamar Khan, aka Stephen Khan, who is a close affiliate of Belden Namah. McGlinn acted as a Director in a company owned by Mr Qamar Khan, AUSPNG Holdings Limited. Khan sold the company to Siniwok Limited in 2015. Siniwok is owned by Beldan Namah. Mr Khan was also a Director at Siniwok Limited.

This comes after Beldan Namah was recently rumored to have travelled to Bougainville for talks with President Momis.

McGlinn also heads the firm Caballus Excellence. The latter boasts

“A whole world and even more, is everything that Caballus Excellence World selects for the lifestyle of its members that have chosen excellence in their daily lives: from the refinement of taste in food, to reception in the most prestigious hotels, from luxury shopping online, to services reserved for art collectors, from travel by carjet and yacht to the most exclusive destinations. This is our tribute to the elegance of the good life”. 

If the below communique is accurate, it appears a small few may see ‘the elegance of the good life’ courtesy of this amendment to the Mining Act, but the many on Bougainville will suffer.

Proposed ABG Legislation to bypass LOs in SML allocation – Report from Bougainville

This is the proposal that ABG is seeking Legislate in the coming week. There is no work, let alone consultation done to drive the legislative changes to BMA to accommodate Caballus (a mining company in partnership with ABG)

We must oppose it for the following reasons among others;

1. Caballus is suggesting amending legislation to completely side step all the safeguards, protections, procedures, and ownership rights, including the Customary Owners ownership provided for in the Bougainville Mining Act.

Here you have a foreigner, who is trying to secure a significant personal interest, recommending the ABG strip the rights and ownership of the Customary Owners of Bougainville.

Further this special vehicle (BAM) will be the only entity to which Special Mining Licences in Bougainville can be issued. It seeks to bypass the Mining department and the ABG administration.

It covers all SML’s not only Panguna and effectively nationalises every SML- Mining Project and gives one man, Jeff McGlinn a 40% interest in every SML on Bougainville.   

2 – final point, makes it clear the ABG’s interest is dilutive, so it does not have a non dillutive interest. Jeff McGlinn will arrange for the distribution of new shares to other investors. This mean Jeff McGlinn and his investors will personally control every mine in AROB, not the AGB and not the LO’s. It removes the LO’s direct ownership in the mining project, and right of veto over EL and SML’s.

It is not as Jeff McGlinn says a “slight change” but a draconian change which takes away all the LO’s rights and ownership, and places them in the hands of one man Jeff McGlinn, and the ABG.

The Caballus proposal does not say they are raising US$150m for the ABG for it to use, at its discretion eg the referendum costs.

3. Jeff McGlinn has to be given title first (he will try and raise the funds only after all approvals have been given). Caballus will then only “assist” the ABG with an initial capital raising. So McGlinn gets title first, only then does he “try” or “assist the ABG” to raise the money. In fact no guarantee, only a vague promise to “assist” the ABG to raise money. Again it’s not the ABG’s money but BAM’s money.

So if he fails to raise the money. He still walks away with the title (40%) for nothing. So he is asking for the titles of all mines, only for a promise to “assist” with raising money.

4. says he is going to raise money from Sovereign States (and private investors). Note the investors will be foreign countries. This gives rise to all sorts of national security and independence issues for the ABG. Foreign Governments directly controlling Bougainville’s most strategic asset.

5. says the US$150m raising will be for the purpose of funding for the mine-Pre-construction and pre-operation. The first stage funding will be circa US$150m to commence the bankable feasibility study. This is not and will not be the ABG’s money therefore. As the ABG currently believes.

It suggests the US$150m will be for new shares in Bougainville Advance Mining (BAM). The money therefore will be BAM’s and will be used for the above (point 14) specific purposes, not the ABG’s personal use.

Further the very initial or starting deal is 60/40, but the proposal is absolutely unclear as to what % the investors who put up US$150m get, and what % the ABG will be left with. It appears everyone gets diluted pro rata but completely unclear. 

There is definitely on guaranteed minimum floor for the ABG.

6. Role of ABG. 2nd last Point. The ABG will distribute, administer, and maintain the BAM shareholding for Traditional Owners – not the Customary Owners themselves. The Landowners will not have a direct project interest (and therefore direct access to cash), as the current Bougainville Mining Act provides, with direct access and control over their share of the cash generation.

7. Use the income to rebuild Bougainville (infrastructure and facilities) This is illusionary and highly misleading. ABG will only have ultimately a minority interest in the shares of BAM- not a direct project interest. It will only get a dividend if BAM declares and pays a dividend. They cannot control that decision. If the BAM Board wants to retain the cash for expansions or new developments, there will be no cash for the ABG. The ABG will not have a direct share of project profits and revenue.

Hopelessly simplistic and misleading. No provision for independent directors. Everyone is an executive director.

No directors either representing the investors putting up the supposed US$150m or capital thereafter. This is just not possible.


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Thirty-four years of mining but Western still behind others in development: Yoto

A mother and her malnourished child, Bimadbn Village, Morehead, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Penny Johnson

Thirty-four years of mining at the giant Ok Tedi mine but the people of Western Province are still waiting to see the promised benefits

The National aka The Loggers Times | January 28, 2019

Western Governor Taboi Awi Yoto says his province still lags behind other provinces in terms of development, despite 34 years of Ok Tedi mining operations.

Yoto said this when he presented its K308 million 2019 appropriation budget to Treasurer Charles Abel in Port Moresby on Thursday.

“There are no major road networks to connect rural areas to urban areas,” he said.

“My people are still walking long distances, paddling along rivers and swamps to reach the nearest service centres to get medical treatment, attend schools or sell their products at the local market.”

Yoto said the Western Province Development Strategy (2018-22) focused on healthy and educated people with food on the table and income in their pockets.

The Western appropriation budget of K308,050,800 expects K210,831,100 million from National Government grant allocation.

Yoto said the provincial government, through its internal revenue collection, was expected to collect about K97,219,700.

Provincial headquarters will get K171,049,100, South Fly K41,993,900, Middle Fly K49,435, 900, and North Fly K45,571,900.

“The criteria for budget allocation was based on current development and service delivery issues and challenges that confront the lives of over 211,000 people living in rural areas and urban centres across Western,” Yoto said.

Enabling infrastructure got the biggest slice of the budget with K50,764,100 (31 per cent) allocated.

This was followed by education with K36,691,400 (22 per cent)

The health sector was allocated K29,607,000 (18 per cent) while governance sector was allocated K23,372,200 million (14 per cent).

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Hundreds feared dead as Brazil dam collapse releases mud tide

Firemen search for people after the dam collapse unleashed a torrent of mud. Photograph: Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images

Officials warn few survivors are expected after mining workers in canteen and on a bus are caught in a wave of iron ore waste

Dom Phillips | The Observer | 26 January 2019

Hundreds of people are feared dead after a dam operated by the mining company Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red iron ore waste and causing the worst environmental catastrophe in the country’s recent history.

Authorities say that 40 people have died, and more than 300 people remain missing according to the company. The disaster comes only three years after a similar failure of the Fundão tailings dam near Mariana – co-owned by Vale – which killed 19 people.

Speaking after the latest disaster, the local fire chief Col Edgar Estevão said 100 people had been rescued from the sea of mud released by the dam. However, Vale later released a list of 412 employees and contractors whom it had still been unable to contact, and the state governor, Romeu Zema, said he did not expect many more survivors.

“We know now that the chances of having survivors are minimal and that we will probably rescue bodies,” he said.

Brazilian television showed images of survivors being winched to safety by a helicopter after the disaster at the Feijão mine near Brumadinho, less than two hours from the state capital, Belo Horizonte.

“I saw a gigantic cloud of dust and a wave of mud. It was one wave on top of another,” one contractor, Mayke Ferreira, told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. Ferreira said he had been sleeping in a nearby dormitory when he was woken by an enormous crash.

It is not yet clear what caused the tailings dam to burst. However, the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama has already slapped a 250m reais (£50m) fine on Vale for violations related to the tragedy. The company has caused pollution, made the area unfit for habitation and committed other regulatory violations, Ibama said. State prosecutors have also filed a request to freeze 5bn reais in Vale’s accounts to help fund recovery works.

Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, visited Minas Gerais and flew over the disaster area. “We will do what is within our reach to attend the victims, minimise damages, investigate the facts, demand justice and prevent new tragedies like Mariana and Brumadinho,” he tweeted.

However, environmentalists have accused Bolsonaro of persistently attacking them for calling for tighter regulations at the mine and for failing to take action to tighten safety there.

“This tragedy was only a matter of time,” said Carlos Eduardo Pinto, a prosecutor who worked on the Mariana case. “Since the Fundão tailings dam, nothing has been done to increase control of this activity.”

Mud and waste from the mining disaster in Minas Gerais. Photograph: António Lacerda/EPA

Most of the victims of the disaster were Vale employees or subcontractors, around 100 of whom were having lunch in a canteen on the mine complex when the torrent of mud swept over them. A busload of workers was also killed, it was reported.

Maicon Vitor, 22, an electro-mechanic technician, told O Globo newspaper that he had just left the canteen when he heard the roar of the tailings dam breaking. “It came down dragging workshops, offices; the whole canteen which was in front of me went,” he said.

Fabio Schvartsman, the chief executive of Vale, said he was devastated by the tragedy. “Most of those affected were Vale employees,” he said. “I’m completely torn apart by what happened.”

Vale said the 86-metre-high tailings dam at the Corrego de Feijão open-cast, iron ore mining complex was built in 1976 and held 11.7m litres of mining waste. It was being decommissioned and had been pronounced safe in inspections.

But the National Civil Society Forum for Hydrographic Basins, a network of civil society groups, said that it had urged the authorities not to grant Vale a licence to continue operations there.

“The population of Casa Branca is very worried, with good reason,” Julio Grillo from Ibama, told a meeting on 11 December, according to minutes obtained by the Observer.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official at the state environment agency asked why the company had built a canteen at the foot of the dam. “How can you approve a dam like this with the guy building an administrative centre with canteen at the foot of the tailings dam?”

It cost billions to clean up after the Mariana disaster in 2015, which polluted the drinking water of hundreds of thousands. Yet no individual was ever held responsible. “Cases like these are not accidents but environmental crimes,” Greenpeace Brazil said in a statement.

“I hope now they will create a new way to mine that doesn’t mount up waste, a safe way of working that does not leave widows,” said Sandra Quintao, a survivor of the Mariana disaster.

The Mariana dam was operated by Samarco, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton, an Anglo-Australian mining giant.

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Not the right time to talk about reopening Panguna

‘Large scale mining is nothing but a well-organized scam to plunder resources from under the unsuspecting landowners who pay a heavy price for lies…’

Chris Baria | January 25, 2019

The call by Boniface Arunara, Team Leader of the Bolave Constituency awareness group on ABG to lift the ban on Panguna Mine, which appeared on Friday’s paper (25/01/19) cannot go unchallenged by those of us who fear that it is not the right time to entertain an industry which is callous, divisive and corruption-prone.

It is foolish to talk about the Panguna mine which is a divisive issue at this very crucial period when Bougainville faces significant challenges in its journey through a referendum to eventual independence. The mine was the initial flashpoint of a costly war that claimed the lives of 20,000 Bougainvillean man, women and children. There is no telling whether the next wave of mining will do any better, especially when we have a lot of opportunists aligning themselves with all sorts of mining companies to divide up the people’s loyalties to one company or another.

Those of us opposed to mining are well aware that ABG has been issuing exploration and probably mining licenses, without due diligence checks on the recipients of these licenses. Some of us are shocked to learn that the Filipino Mining company SRMI, carrying out mineral exploration in southern central Bougainville, has bad mining reputation in the Philippines for tax evasion, human rights abuses, and buying politicians, but ABG went ahead and issued them the mining license.

In the Friday’s article, Mr. Arunara goes on to raise the volatile issue of compensation in an irresponsible attempt to raise people’s expectation, while at the same time talking about RTG another mining company which very little is known about. Has BCL compensated the people of Bougainville for their suffering and deaths? What makes Mr. Arunara so sure that another company that has just crawled out of the woodwork will pay BCL’s debts?

Look at all the number of mining companies looking up at ABG and begging for licenses like a pack of hungry dogs and as this notes go to print, another mining company “Caballos”(not sure of the name) has just come into the mix.

Unless we own our own mining company, it is pointless to talk about development and prosperity when we don’t own the means of production even though we lay claim to the minerals beneath our feet. Millions of dollars will pass through before our eyes as investors pour in money to develop the mine, buy capital equipment and build the mine infrastructure. The mine exists for these investors who stand to make a massive profit behind the scene while we wait for the price of copper and gold to improve on the world market to be paid. The mine is not there to pay us compensation for trying to chase it away or build roads for us and make us rich overnight.

Prosperity will come for politicians and the elites but it is the landowners and those affected by mining that will pay heavy the price for the damage to their way of life their land and environment and subsequent loss of livelihoods. What compensation paid to them will not bring back the way of life they enjoyed prior to mining.

Physical self-reliance also should be sustainable and not just a show for Papua New Guinea and Australia to grant us independence. It should be a long term commitment by the leaders of Bougainville to their people. Physical self-reliance should not be measured on the wealth from the mine, which corrupt governments misuse, but on an economy that puts money into the pockets of the rural communities where the bulk of our people live, while at the same time paying for government operations and the delivery health and education services to the people.

Let’s not forget that Panguna bankrolled Papua New Guinea’s independence but today mired in foreign debt the country is scraping the bottom of the barrel trying pay for service delivery to the people. Why? because they lived on free money from BCL until we closed the mine. BCL made huge profits because they never paid for any environmental protection infrastructure and enjoyed tax concessions. Mining is not a sustainable industry like agriculture and often leaves the host country in a financial, environmental and social mess after it mines out the minerals.

I would suggest that Mr Arunara, instead of try to bringing more problems from overseas, reconsidered his proposal to ABG and look at options such as tapping into safe alluvial mining which is a leaky tap sending out billions of Kina worth of gold out of Bougainville. I have mobilized my community to go into Virgin Coconut Oil production. This is a value added product that can go directly to the local and export market, after minimal processing at the household level to bring more cash in for families to meet the cost of school fees and medicines. There are many business opportunities that are participatory, creative and challenging than spending dull days gazing into the depths of a mine pit and coming up with indecent proposals. A lot of countries in the world like Fiji have vibrant economies without having to depend on mining, which to date is nothing but a well-organized scam to plunder resources from under the unsuspecting landowners who pay a heavy price for lies.

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Latest mining waste dam failure was preventable, foreseen

Handout picture released by the Minas Gerais Fire Department showing an aerial view taken after the collapse of a dam near the town of Brumadinho in south-eastern Brazil, on Friday. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Expert recommendations & research ignored by global mining industry

Payal Sampat | Earthworks | January 26, 2019

Vale’s Brumadinho mining waste dam failure is all the more tragic because the mining industry knows how to prevent them, yet failed to act.

200 people are missing and some presumed dead because Vale and the rest of global mining industry haven’t adopted the Mount Polley Independent Expert Panel’s recommendations made in response to a similar catastrophic mining waste dam failure in 2014. These recommendations have been globally recognized, including by the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2017 assessment of tailings dams failures, and by the multi-sector Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance standard. Until these recommendations are adopted and independently verified, preventable mining disasters will continue to occur wherever the mining industry operates.

Independent research that analyzes mine waste dam failures since the turn of the 20th century reveals that these catastrophic failures are occurring more frequently. It also projects the trend will continue, driven by economic factors.

After the 2015 Samarco mining waste dam disaster, the International Council on Mining Metals published mining waste impoundment guidance that ignored the globally recognized recommendations by the Mount Polley Panel.

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World Class Mine: World Class Disaster

Handout picture released by the Minas Gerais Fire Department showing an aerial view taken after the collapse of a dam near the town of Brumadinho in south-eastern Brazil, on Friday. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Ellen Moore | January 25, 2019

First responders are reporting ‘various deaths’ and at least 200 missing from a tailings dam break at Vale SA’s Feijão Mine in Brumadinho, located in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. In addition to consuming the Vale’s entire property, the toxic waste also reached the community of Vila Ferteco. Residents in the southern region of Brumadinho are being evacuated. Harrowing photos and videos show mine waste cutting across roadsconsuming homes and farmlandHelicopters and rescue teams have been deployed to the area.

According to local activists, numerous complaints have been made about the risk of rupture of dams since 2015, and yet an extension for operations at the mine was approved by national environmental authorities in December 2018.  

This is Brazil’s second major environmental disaster due to a tailings breach in recent years. In 2015, two tailings dams at the Germano iron ore mine, co-owned by Vale SA and Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, failed, spilling the equivalent of 25,000 Olympic swimming pools and killing nineteen people. The disaster cut off the drinking water supply for a quarter of a million people in the region and polluted the Rio Doce watershed, killing fish and wildlife.

Since the spill, Vale’s stock price has nosedived.

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Youths Seek Employment From Local Porgera Mine

Robert Apala | Post Courier | January 25, 2019

The Small Mining Lease (SML) youths in the Southern Highlands have been protesting against Porgera mine’s administration in regards to employment.

Under the agreement which was signed in 1990, it stated that landowners within the SML area are eligible to be employed under the company now operating the mine.

The SML youths said that the HR is recruiting outside the SML area while the rightful landowners within the mining area are not recruited.

A member of the youth group Alex Inguni said that for the last two weeks they have been carrying out a peaceful protest which hasn’t involved property damage or assault.

These SML clans Tiane, Tuanda, Waiwa, Angalaini, Mamai, Pulumani and Anga, claim that they have all the right to be employed by the company.

“Now the government and the country is facing economic difficulties and we as landowners should protect the company’s assets because after all the company is here to provide basic services to us”, he said.

The group is now waiting for a proper response from the recruiting office.

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Brazil dam collapse: hundreds missing after another mining disaster

Handout picture released by the Minas Gerais Fire Department showing an aerial view taken after the collapse of a dam near the town of Brumadinho in south-eastern Brazil, on Friday. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Disaster released a wave of orange sludge after a tailings dam burst at an iron ore mine, with scores of people still trapped

Dom Phillips | The Guardian | 25 January 2019

As many as 200 people are missing after three dams operated by the mining giant Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red mining waste and prompting fears of widespread contamination.

At least 50 people died in the disaster on Friday, Avimar de Melo, mayor of the nearby town of Brumadinho told the Hoje em Dia newspaper. “We don’t have any more details because it’s all happening very quickly,” he said.

Brazilian television showed images of survivors being winched to safety by a helicopter after the disaster at the Feijão mine near Brumadinho, less than two hours from the state capital, Belo Horizonte.

Among those missing were 100 mine workers who were having lunch in an administrative area when it was hit by a torrent of sludge and water, said a fire brigade spokesman, Lieutenant Pedro Aihara.

“Our main worry now is to quickly find out where the missing people are,” Aihara said on GloboNews cable television channel.

Videos shared on social media showed houses buried in the mud and local media reported that the nearby Inhotim outdoor art complex had been evacuated though not affected.

The dam collapse came less than four years after Brazil’s worst environmental disaster was caused by the failure of a tailings dam at Mariana in the same state. That dam was operated by Samarco, which at the time of the disaster was half-owned by Vale.

“I don’t have words to describe my suffering, my enormous sadness, my disappointment in what has just happened. It is beyond anything you can imagine,” Vale’s CEO, Fabio Schvartsman, said in an address on YouTube.

He said the company had made an “enormous effort” to make its tailings dams safe after the Mariana disaster. “The whole of Vale will do whatever is possible to help the people affected,” he said.

Fire brigades and the Minas Gerais civil defence authority were leading rescue efforts, the company said in a statement.

“There were employees in the administrative area, which was hit by rejects, indicating the possibility, still unconfirmed, of victims. Part of the community of Vila Ferteco was also hit. There is still no confirmation of the cause of the accident,” it said .

Brazil’s ministry of the environment said it had set up a crisis cabinet after the three dams broke. The environment minister, Ricardo Salles, and Eduardo Bim, head of the ministry’s environment agency Ibama are on their way to the scene.

“Our major concern at this moment is to attend any victims of this serious tragedy,” Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, tweeted. “All reasonable measures are being taken.”

Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasília that he would fly to Minas Gerais on Saturday morning and fly over the region “so we can once again re-evaluate the damage and take all the reasonable measures to minimise the suffering of relatives and possible victims as well as the environmental issue”.

Bolsonaro has attacked environment agencies including Ibama for holding up development with what he describes as excessive licensing requirements and advocated freeing up mining in protected indigenous reserves.

Environmentalists said Brazil had failed to learn from the Mariana disaster, in which 375 families lost their homes, and are yet to be rehoused. The three companies which operated the Mariana dam – Samarco, Vale and the Australian mining giant BHP Billiton – spent more than $1bn on a huge clean-up and relief operation and paid millions of dollars in fines over the disaster. But no individual has been convicted.

“This new disaster with a mining waste tailings dam – this time in Brumadinho – is the sad consequence of a lesson not learnt by the Brazilian state and mining companies,” said Greenpeace Brasil’s campaigns director, Nilo D’Avila, in a statement. “Cases like these are not accidents but environmental crimes that should be investigated, punished and repaired.”

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