Monthly Archives: January 2019

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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Minister blames mining company after Kainantu violence

Minister issues warning to companies after attack

The National aka The Loggers Times | January 24, 2019

Mining Minister Johnson Tuke has urged all exploration and mining firms to conduct due diligence when it comes to affected landowners in project sites.

Tuke issued the warning following an incident at the Kainantu gold mine, Eastern Highlands, where one person was reported killed, 70 houses destroyed and 50 people injured following a conflict last week.

He told The National yesterday: “This is exactly what happens when certain exploration companies do not conduct due diligence when it comes to considering landowners.

“I am telling all companies to behave diligently, to accommodate landowners, communities.

“Companies should be the ones to conduct social mapping.

“This issue (Kainantu gold mine) was provoked by the K92 (K92 Mining Inc).

“There was one death, 60 to 70 houses burnt because of the involvement of the company to engage one faction of the landowners.

“The other faction put up an argument and eventually they ended up fighting.

“A similar case was earlier reported in Southern Highlands when an exploration company failed to address that.

“Now it has happened again in Kainantu.

“It’s not a good thing to see landowners fighting against each other.”

K92 Mining Inc is focused on advancing the Kainantu gold mine.

The Kainantu property covers a total area of approximately 410sqkm and was previously mined by Highlands Pacific and Barrick Gold from 2006-2009.

After being commissioned in 2006, the processing facilities operated for a cumulative total of approximately 7000 hours (292 days) before being put on care and maintenance by Barrick Gold.

Barrick continued this care and maintenance of the mill until the sale of the project to K92.

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Rugby League stars’ promotion of coal in PNG questioned

Brisbane and Queensland rugby league player Sam Thaiday. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Radio New Zealand | 23 January 2019 

Questions have been raised in Papua New Guinea over the visit by Australian rugby league stars to promote coal development in the country.

The Australian company Mayur Resources has an environmental permit to mine coal in PNG’s Gulf Province, and is proposing a coal-fired power plant in Lae.

It’s recently deployed a second former league star, Sam Thaiday, to PNG in a promotional capacity.

Former Australian captain Darren Lockyer is Mayur’s head of Business Affairs.

Christian Lohberger of Nogat Coal PNG, which opposes Mayur’s plans, said the league stars, and Lockyer in particular, are idolised in PNG.

“Even though they’re just footballers, when they talk and say stuff, people listen. So I guess it’s a smart move by Mayur to bring them on board. But I don’t know if it’s really ethical that they should be using Papua New Guineans’ love of rugby league to promote something that’s not really connected.”

Mr Lohberger said that the proposed plant would create significant pollution and cause harm and death to local communities.

However, PNG’s Minister for Energy Sam Basil is supporting the coal project, saying it would open up access to cheaper energy that has long been lacking in the country.

Mr Basil has voiced concern that the current power plant in Lae uses imported heavy fuel oil and is cost inefficient.

He said that PNG should explore as many local energy options as possible, given the country’s range of natural resources.

However the plant backers have not secured a local customer or off-taker for the power produced at the plant.

The main power supplier in the country, PNG Power, has been reluctant to buy electricity from coal sources.

Mr Lohberger said he understood PNG Power was waiting on a pending World Bank report on a comprehensive electricity generation cost strategy, which could affect a decision on linking up with Mayur’s plant.

“I would say with the way global trends are going, the surge in renewable energy, and the fall in prices of solar and wind and hydro, that any report that takes a look at power prices is not going to be favourable to coal,” he explained.

But global shifts away from investment in fossil fuels, due to pressing climate change issues, are not deterring the minister who has cited PNG’s neighbours’ energy policies.

Mr Basil said that with both Australia and Indonesia heavily reliant on coal power, PNG should not deprive itself of a home-grown asset.

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K500M Demand For Wafi-Golpu ‘Unreasonable’

Prime minister Peter O’Neill says K500M Demand For Wafi-Golpu is ‘Unreasonable’ Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Isaac Nicholas | Post Courier | January 23, 2019

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told Parliament yesterday that the Morobe provincial government demand for K400-K500 million in affidavits filed in a court application against the developer of Wafi-Golpu mine project and the State is unreasonable.

Mr O’Neill was responding to questions from Member for Markham Koni Iguan on the importance of Papua LNG and Wafi-Golpu mine in the country, the recent shutdown of operations and the court application filed by Morobe provincial government.

He said the court application by the provincial government was within its rights to take the State and developer and all the other stakeholders to court.

“But some of the affidavit that have been put forward in court are quite alarming, particularly demanding large sums of money to carry out some of the landowner forums and discussions that is going to take place,” Mr O’Neill said.

“We have to be reasonable, the project has not started yet asking for K4-500 million I heard is nobody is going to do that so please let us be realistic but we can’t stop the proceedings to go ahead but we will try and resolve these with all stakeholders in an amicable manner which will benefit our people and our country.”

Mr O’Neill said the MOU signed between the government and developers of Wafi-Golpu was just an understanding that would pave the way for talks between landowners and provincial governments and all stakeholders on benefits like local content and other benefits.

“These two projects, the Papua LNG and Wafi-Golpu have been a subject of discussion for many years since those two discoveries were made for gold and gas in Elk Antelope, and now that the developers have put in an application to develop those mines, government has a responsibility to ensure that they have the confidence of government and the confidence in the legislation under which we issued them the exploration licence where they were asked to come and invest and make these discoveries.”

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MP Mirisim Supports No Fly-In-Fly-Out for Frieda mine

Matthew Vari | Post Courier | January 23, 2019

Member for Telefomin and Minister for Defence, Solan Mirisim has appealed to the Freida River project developers to seriously not take on the fly-in-fly-out arrangements for mine staff.
Mr Mirisim said this last week during a press conference held alongside Minister for National Planning and Yangoru-Saussia MP Richard Maru and Ambunti Drekikir MP Johnson Wapunai in Port Moresby regarding the Freida River project development.
“That also goes for Freida River project, there is no fly-in-fly-out, there is got to be a township so let the landowners and all the employers comes in to participate in the local economy and communities.
“So let me appeal to the company or developer that there should not be any fly in fly out and there has got to be a township.
“Township we have been planning for a big airport in Green River in the center where the township can be up to the Freida River project township.”Mr Mirisin’s district sits where the project is set to be developed, and his comments on the issue were made on the back of Minister Maru’s stance on the issue that no such arrangement is to take place for the Wafi-Golpu project in Morobe.“We are building a national airport there (Morobe) at the cost of K1.5 billion. It has a city of its own and it will be an anchor development that will complement the airport.“And Morobe and Lae already have the wharf and facilities and I really want to see that, and there cannot be any excuse as far as I am concerned.“Morobe and Papua New Guinea must get maximum benefit from the development of their resources,” Mr Maru commented on the Wafi Golpu project development.

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