Tag Archives: Health and safety

MRA embarks to reduce mercury usage

alluvial miners at work

Alluvial miners at work on Bougainville

Cedric Patjole | Loop PNG | March 8, 2020

The Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) recently launched a project to reduce the use of mercury in small scale mining operations.

The Project aims to identify the extent to which mercury is used in the industry and how it is used and by whom, in a bid to mitigate health risks.

On March 6th, the ‘Reducing Mercury Use in Papua New Guinea’s Alluvial and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector’ Project was launched in Port Moresby, following a workshop with key stakeholders and project partners.

The Alluvial Mining industry is one of the largest small to medium enterprise sectors in PNG that engages thousands of rural small scale miners.

It is also a sector that is great health risks due to the usage of mercury.

“This project is designed to get a better understanding of our alluvial sector general, and more specifically to identify the extent to which mercury is used how it is used and by whom,” said MRA Executive Manager of Regulatory Operations, Roger Gunson.

“In addition, it will track the supply trial and identify the regions where it is used. The data collected relating to the sector will be entered into a database administered as part of MRA’s land-folio tenement system.

“This will be able to better inform on policy development, resourcing, training and sector needs.”

Gunson, said the Alluvial Mining is one of the biggest revenue earners for the country with K550 million recorded in 2019.

He said this is similar to revenue generated by smaller mines such as Simberi Mine. However, the use of mercury in extracting gold poses major health risks to the miners.

“Unfortunately, in many parts of PNG gold is extracted through the use of mercury. This is a danger to the health of miners, their families and communities as well as we have heard from the workshop today.

“Hence, we have a paradox, we want the gold and we want to be able to seek it, but we also have a health risk that sits alongside it,” said Gunson.

The project is funded by the US Department of State and implemented by Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) in conjunction with the MRA.

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Communities & Civil Society Call for Action to Prevent More Mine Waste Disasters on First Anniversary of Deadly Brazilian Spill

A member of a rescue team walks next to a collapsed tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA, in Brumadinho, Brazil February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves

January 23 2020

Communities and civil society groups are marking the first anniversary of one of the world’s deadliest mine waste disasters by highlighting the dangerous practices of the mining industry, and calling for stricter oversight.

On January 25th, 2019, the Córrego do Feijão iron mine tailings dam in Brazil collapsed, killing 270 people, obliterating the community of Brumadinho, and inundating the Paraopeba River watershed with 12 million cubic meters of mining waste.  The mine is owned by Vale, the third largest mining company in the world, and a member of the mining industry trade association, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). 

Sadly, this was not an isolated event. The World Mine Tailings Failures Database documents the increasing number and severity of tailings dam disasters since 1915. Brumadinho was the third major collapse since 2014, including the catastrophic Samarco failure in Brazil, also owned by Vale.   

Maria Teresa Corujo, an activist from the mineral rich Minas Gerais region of Brazil and member of the #JaneiroMarrom (#BrownJanuary) campaign said,

“We in Minas Gerais are facing hundreds of ticking ‘time bombs,’ the tailings dams that are not being properly dealt with by those who have the power and responsibility to do so. The ‘solutions’ we’ve been given are unacceptable, such as training thousands of people to ‘self-rescue’ while mining companies continue to operate unsafe waste dams and expand their operations.”

Seven Vale executives and six safety auditors have been charged with covering up reports the Brumadinho structure was unsafe. This week, Brazilian prosecutors filed homicide charges against the former CEO of Vale and 15 other employees and auditors. 

“In Brazil, society is still waiting for a proper response from regulatory agencies and Congress to increase accountability for mining companies. Social movements demand that the government fix legal loopholes, such as the lack of financial assurance for compensation and reclamation, and allowing mining companies to choose their own auditing firms”, said Bruno Milanez, Associate Professor at Juiz de Fora Federal University (Minas Gerais), and member of the National Committee in Defense of Territories Against Mining in Brazil.

Industry and government have failed to take meaningful steps to prevent tailings disasters. In April 2019, investors controlling $10 trillion demanded that global mining companies disclose their tailings dam failure risks – the first time investors have demanded accountability of the mining industry on this scale. Investor intervention led to the creation of the Global Tailings Review, co-convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and ICMM. Several civil society organizations have been critical of its limited scope and the recommendations presented in the draft standard.

“We’ve learned from Mount Polley, Brumadinho, and the many tailings disasters before them to know that tinkering on the margins isn’t going to prevent future catastrophes,” said Payal Sampat, Earthworks’ Mining Program Director.

“Safety must be the primary priority for mining operations around the world, and the rules for safer mining cannot be written or self-policed by mining companies.”

“If we’ve learned anything from this tragedy, it’s that there must be rigorous technical standards, enforced by an independent global body. The Global Tailings Review must lead to the establishment of such a body, and it must require top-level corporate accountability for disasters, whistleblower protections, independent oversight and safer practices such as dry storage of mine waste and a ban on upstream dams,” said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada.

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Brazil files homicide charges against Vale ex-CEO, 15 others in deadly 2019 dam collapse

Rescue operations underway in the wake of Vale’s Brumadinho dam collapse

Brazil prosecutions a stark contrast to the lack of corporate culpability in Papua New Guinea for a series of ‘world class’ environmental disasters and thousands of preventable deaths from river pollution…

Ana Paula Blower and Siobhán O’Grady | Washington Post | January 21, 2020

Prosecutors on Tuesday filed homicide charges against Fabio Schvartsman, the former CEO of the Brazilian mining conglomerate Vale, and 15 other people in the deadly dam collapse last year that killed at least 249 people.

The Minas Gerais state prosecutor’s office said it was bringing homicide and environmental charges against 11 people who worked for Vale and five who worked for the German safety-certification company TUV SUD. The companies will also face environmental charges.

The prosecutor’s office said the charges followed a nearly year-long investigation that concluded the dam posed a critical safety risk since at least 2017, and the situation worsened in 2018. In a statement, prosecutors accused Vale of hiding information related to the safety of the dams “from the government and society, including investors and shareholders of the company.”

They said investigators determined the alleged crimes were carried out in a way “that made it impossible or difficult for the victims to defend themselves — since the dam burst occurred abruptly and violently.”

In a statement, Vale said Tuesday that it would cooperate fully with authorities but “believes the accusations of fraud are perplexing.”

“It is important to note that other authorities are investigating the case and, at this point, it is premature to claim there was conscious assumption of risk to cause a deliberate breach of the dam,” the statement said.

Schvartsman’s lawyers said the charges against him were “hasty and unfair,” and should not have been determined before federal police finish their investigation.

Attorneys Pierpaolo Cruz Bottini, Mauricio Campos and Paulo Freitas said in a statement that Schvartsman took repeated measures to ensure dam safety at Vale, and opened an immediate investigation when the dam burst last year. They said authorities ignored documents submitted for the investigation that show the problems at the dam were not relayed to Schvartsman’s office.

“Those responsible must be held responsible for their actions,” the lawyers said. “But the attempt to punish those who, since the first hour, fulfilled their duty and stood by the authorities to investigate what happened and repair the damage, is unjust and regrettable.”

Vale and TUV SUD have faced scrutiny since the 280-foot tailings dam in the Minas Gerais municipality of Brumadinho collapsed last January, unleashing nearly 2 million cubic meters of toxic waste onto the mine’s offices and a nearby community. Torrents of mud swept away hundreds of people; some are still missing.

Schvartsman has been on leave since March. “Even totally assured of my righteous ways and having fulfilled my duty,” he wrote to company directors at the time, “I request the board to accept my temporary leave in the benefit of the company’s continued operations.”

TUV SUD said Tuesday it is “deeply affected” by the disaster, and “is still very much interested in clarifying the facts of the dam breach and therefore continues to offer its cooperation to the responsible authorities and institutions in Brazil and Germany in the context of the ongoing investigations.”

The company declined to offer further details Tuesday, citing “ongoing legal and official proceedings.”

Waste from the collapse on Jan. 25, 2019, blanketed miles of vegetation. Firefighters uncovered a bus carrying employees in the wreckage. All on board were dead.

Iara Murta, 58, fled her home with her two sisters. Speaking to The Washington Post in the aftermath, she said saw bodies and livestock stuck in the river of mud and mining runoff.

“It’s like watching the worst horror film,” she said.

In July, a Brazilian judge ordered Vale to cover all costs related to the dam’s collapse. Vale, based in Rio de Janeiro, said it would pay families more than $100 million.

Last year’s dam collapse shed light on the dangers of tailings dams, prompting reviews of other locations in Brazil where dams could be at risk for similar types of collapse.

A different Vale-operated dam burst in Minas Gerais in 2015, killing 19 people and displacing hundreds. After last year’s collapse, former environmental minister Marina Silva tweeted that “History is repeating itself,” and that “the government and the mining companies have learned nothing.”

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Ramu Nico Resumes Operations In Madang


Post Courier | October 29, 2019

The Ramu Nickel project is back in operation after being shut down for a week.

This comes after the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), granted permission for Ramu NiCo Management (MCC) Limited, to resume operation of the neutralisation and surge tanks at E143 area of the Basamuk processing plant last week Friday.

This permission effectively allows the recommencement of operations of the Basamuk processing plant according to a media release by MRA yesterday.

The permission was given following satisfactory site verifications by mines inspectors on-site who have been monitoring and ensuring that the company was in compliance with statutory orders, given to rectify the defects as a condition of recommencing operations following the shutdown.

After the company shut down its operations on October 21, inspectors went no site on October 23 to inspect remedial works and compliance. The inspection ended on Friday October 25, when they granted permission to re-commence operations after observing satisfactory compliance to critical recommendations.

“There are other outstanding remedial measures which were not considered as part of the E143 area, but overall safety measures for the Basamuk processing plant. Such include, competency training for workers and regular risk assessment and risk management trainings.

“Furthermore, measures are in place to ensure any storm water or process water from the processing plant area are captured in the retention sumps and pumped into the tailings treatment and DSTP facilities,” MRA said.

“The inspectorate branch will continue to monitor the performance of the company as they had always been doing. Mine sites are some of the most hazardous and high-risk operational environments. The MRA can only do so much to minimise and mitigate incidences from happening but it all comes down to personal attitudes of workers towards safety, mining companies’ commitment to safety, and cooperation between operators and the inspectorate.”

Ramu NiCo Management (MCC) Ltd acnowledged MRA mines inspectorate for their guidance over the week to rectify the identified defects and granted order for the resumption of Basamuk processing plant.


“As a genuine investor, we try out best to comply and maintain the highest safety standards within the laws,” Ramu Nico said.

“For mines inspectorate to give us permission to operate after a week of temporary shut-down demonstrates the trust they have in us that we have built over the last ten years and we highly value that.

“We want to tell the people of Madang and PNG that Ramu NiCo is a reputable investor in PNG and remains committed to share the benefits from the Project with every stakeholder, including the national government.

“We thank our employees who have worked very hard with MRA to rectify all the remedial works.
“We thank our stakeholders who supported us during this hard time. We thank the national government and Madang provincial government to support us.”

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Dam collapses at Siberian gold mine, killing at least 15 people

The miners’ camp near Krasnoyarsk after the dam collapsed. Photograph: Russian Emergencies Ministry/Emergencies Ministry/TASS

Investigation launched into safety regime at alluvial mine in remote Krasnoyarsk region

Reuters | The Observer | 19 October 2019

At least 15 gold miners were killed when a dam collapsed, flooding a mining encampment in a remote part of Siberia, officials have said.

Heavy rains weakened the dam and water broke through, sweeping away several cabins where the miners lived, about 100 miles south of the city of Krasnoyarsk.

President Vladimir Putin ordered all necessary measures to be taken to help those affected, identify the cause of the disaster and prevent any impact on a nearby residential area, Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Russia is one of the world’s top gold producers, most of it coming from large professional industrial mines. However, alluvial mining, where the gold is in a stream bed rather than an underground seam, still contributes some of the country’s output.

Alluvial (or artisanal) gold mining in Russia is usually small-scale, but is still conducted by officially registered firms, which are supposed to abide by health and safety rules.

Krasnoyarsk officials said water released by the dam partially flooded two dormitories of the rotational camp in which 74 people lived, adding that 13 people were still missing.

A Russian investigative committee said it had launched a criminal investigation into violation of safety rules at the gold mining spot, while local authorities said the collapsed dam was not registered by official bodies.

Interfax said the miners were part of the Siberian privately held company Sibzoloto, which unites several artisanal mining teams.

Sibzoloto was not immediately available for comment. The company produced about three tonnes of gold in 2018, Sergei Kashuba, the head of Russia’s Gold Industrialists’ Union, a non-government producers’ lobby group, said. Sibzoloto is not a member of the union, he added.

Russia produced 314 tonnes of gold in 2018.

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Barrick Shareholders Call On Authorities To Address Violent Crime

Mining company looks to State to resolve the completely foreseeable social problems it has created…

Post Courier | October 7, 2019

The shareholders of Barrick (Niugini) Limited, operator of the Porgera Mine in Enga Province, have expressed their sadness at the passing of a mine employee who was fatally injured in a shooting incident at the mine on the night of September 29.

They are now calling on the authorities to address criminal behaviour in Porgera.

President and chief executive officer of Barrick Gold Mark Bristow, and chairman of Zijin mining, Chen Jinghe, made the following comments:

“We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Samuel Marefa, an asset protection officer at the Porgera mine who sustained a serious gun-shot injury during that night.

“Samuel was evacuated by air to Port Moresby for urgent surgical treatment and he had been in critical condition for several days.

“We received the tragic news last night that following a series of complex surgical procedures he could not hold on.

“Samuel passed away as a consequence of his injuries from the shooting.

“Our company is deeply saddened by his passing, and our thoughts are with Samuel’s wife and family at this difficult time.

“Barrick (Niugini) limited management has been consulting with State authorities since the incident and we have made it clear that we consider it unacceptable that criminals can routinely intrude into operational areas of the mine and behave in this way with impunity.

“The impact of this unlawful and violent behaviour is significant, both in terms of loss of life and serious injury, including to law-abiding mine employees simply trying to earn their living at work, and in terms of the law and order situation in Porgera generally.

“We call on State and provincial authorities to urgently and thoroughly investigate the assault on Mr Marefa, bring the murderers to justice, and to address the rising incidence of violence and lawlessness in the Porgera Valley, which makes it difficult for residents to carry out ordinary activities and lead normal lives.”

Mr Bristow and Mr Chen noted that the company stood ready to work cooperatively with the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and other authorities in responding to this latest incidence of violence and to finding long-term solutions to the critical state of law and order in the Porgera valley.

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‘Bodies are still under the rubble’: Death toll rises to 43 at TSX-listed Katanga Mining’s ‘Word Class’ Congo mine

A copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

Reuters | June 27, 2019

At least 43 artisanal miners were killed on Thursday when part of a copper and cobalt mine owned by Glencore collapsed in southeast Congo, the provincial governor said.

The accident occurred in the KOV open-pit mine at the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) concession, in which Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining owns a 75 per cent stake, said Richard Muyej, the governor of Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lualaba province.

“It was caused by the clandestine artisanal diggers who have infiltrated (the mine),” he told Reuters. “The old terraces gave way, causing significant amounts of material to fall.”

“KOV is a delicate site and presents many risks,” he added.

Glencore said in a statement that it had confirmed 19 fatalities so far and was assisting search and rescue operations by local authorities.

Artisanal mining on the edge of commercial mine sites is a big problem across Africa. The rudimentary, outdated and unregulated practices miners employ can often compromise safety: mine disasters in Congo alone cost the lives of dozens a year.

Thousands of illegal miners operate in southern Congo, which produces more than half of the world’s cobalt, a key component in electric car batteries.

Glencore said an average of 2,000 illegal miners sneak daily onto the KCC concession, which spans a vast flat expanse on the outskirts of the city of Kolwezi near the Zambian border and is one of the country’s largest copper deposits.

Delphin Monga, provincial secretary of the UCDT union which represents KCC employees, said a crack in part of the pit had been noticed on Wednesday. He said KCC had put up red warning signs, but the diggers had ignored them.

This is not the first accident at the mine. In 2016, a 250-metre wall inside the KOV pit collapsed, killing seven mine employees.

Muyej said that the authorities were meeting to decide on new measures to secure large mines.

At least nine illegal gold miners died in Zimbabwe when they were trapped in a mine last month.

Twenty-two died in a previous Zimbabwean gold-mine flood in February, and 14 tin miners were buried alive in Rwanda after heavy rains in January.

In February, about 20 people died when a truck carrying acid to Glencore’s Mutanda Mine in DRC collided with two other vehicles.

Congo’s military deployed hundreds of soldiers last week to protect a copper and cobalt mine owned by China Molybdenum Co Ltd from illegal miners.

Shares in Glencore closed down 4.9 per cent, their worst day of trading since December. The company said the incident has not affected output.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Sterck said if the incident is related to illegal mining, any impact may be relatively short-term beyond an investigative period.

“However, preventative action will likely be needed and it could impact Glencore’s social license to operate,” he added.

KCC produced a total of 152,400 tonnes of copper and 11,100 tonnes of cobalt last year. Glencore’s nearby Mutanda project produced 199,000 tonnes of copper and 27,300 tonnes of cobalt.

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