Tag Archives: United Nations

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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Pacific Spotlights Sea Bed Mining at UN Ocean Conference

PIANGO | SCOOP | 9 June 2017

Activists and representatives from prominent Pacific Island organisations, led by the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO), are taking part in a high-profile side event at the United Nations (UN) Oceans Conference at UN Headquarters in New York today. PIANGO is the Pacific Organising Partner for the UN NGO Major Group at the Oceans Conference.

The panel discussion, aptly themed “Voices from the Blue Frontier,” focused on a more sustainable approach to the “Blue Economy” and shared community experiences from the world’s first experimental deep sea mining project “Solwara One” in Papua New Guinea (PNG), highlighting environmental threats and rights violations of indigenous resource owners and local communities through deep sea mining.

The panel is featuring prominent speakers such as the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF), Francois Martel; Executive Director of PIANGO, Emele Duituturaga; Human Rights Attorney, Julian Aguon; Sarah Thomas nededog, PNG Catholic Cardinal John Ribat and Fair Oceans Expert, Kai Kaschinski.

The side event is designed to provide a platform for engagement and knowledge sharing on the underlying science of seabed mining and to highlight the need for strong governance measures to ensure that appropriate social and environmental safeguards are in place to protect against projected adverse effects of seabed mining in the Pacific Ocean.

“The United Nations Oceans Conference provides a further opportunity for multi-stakeholder participation and partnership building between governments, the private sector and civil society. This event is a demonstration of this inclusive approach and in particular, amplifies the voices of Pacific people, who have the greatest stake in the outcomes of the Oceans Conference,” Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director of PIANGO explained.

“As Small Island Developing States, Pacific Island countries are particularly affected by these ocean developments. Our people rely largely on the ocean and marine resources for their livelihoods, while environmental pollution of oceans and climate change increasingly threaten existing economies.

“For many years, organisations of small-scale fishermen around the world have been fighting against ocean grabbing and the privatisation of fisheries resources. Deep sea mining is an example of such growth-oriented strategies and the unsustainable utilisation of marine resources. It disregards the rights of local communities and their livelihoods, and satisfies the resource needs of industrialised countries and emerging economies,” Ms Duituturaga said.

“Deep sea mining is not a strategy for sustainable development of Pacific Island countries. Deep sea mining and the negative impacts of climate change are based on the same failed model of development. Both threaten the health of the marine environment that is of such vital importance for Pacific Small Island Developing States. We have repeatedly reiterated that we need to rethink prevailing development models and approaches and reshape the Pacific we want.”

The Ocean Conference will result in a Call for Action that has been agreed to by countries, and which will be formally adopted at the conclusion of the Conference. Additional outcomes include the results of seven partnership dialogues that will focus on solutions, and the voluntary commitments to action.

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United Nations against experimental seabed mining in PNG

Merolyn Ten | Post Courier | April 20, 2017

THE United Nations is against the world’s first seabed mining operation which is set to start in two years time in the Bismarck Sea, off the coast of New Ireland Province.

Copper and gold deposits will be mined from the seafloor at a depth of 1600 metres. The UN says this will cause major environmental destruction not only to the communities in New Ireland but the entire Pacific Ocean, and is against the 14 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

“There is a high likelihood that mining will disrupt life under the sea and potentially cause mass devastation for biodiversity,” UN resident co-coordinator Ray Trivedy said. The 14 SDG states the importance of conservation and the sustainable use of the ocean, seas and marine resource.

Oceans, especially the Pacific Ocean which PNG is in, contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions. UN main targets were to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans as stated in the UN Convention Law of Sea.

“I am against sea bed mining because despite what some companies say, I am not convinced that it will lead to sustainable development,” Mr Trivedy said.

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UN Resident Coordinator, Roy Trivedy On Coal Mining in PNG

Leanne Jorari | EMTV News | 7 December 2016

Earlier this week EMTV News reported on the heated debate of coal mining in PNG and since then critics have joined in the debate.

The opposition will not support a coal industry, regardless of it being a lucrative business.

Also speaking against coal mining, UN’s resident coordinator, Roy Trivedy says,

“We should just leave the coal in the ground.”

Affordable and Clean energy is the seventh goal on the list of the United Nations’ global Sustainable Development Goals.

With this in mind, PNG being a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement, many have opposed the idea of coal being mined in the country.

The fossil fuel has many adverse effects including the emissions of
greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Mr Trivedy, who himself is quite vocal about renewable energy, spoke out against coal mining in the country.

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Barrick Gold: Is the UN all talk or do they really care about Human Rights?

barrick lies

Samantha Cole | All Africa | 15 September 2016

Today is exactly one year since public reports of the UN 2015 Geneva “criticism” of Canadian Mining Companies.

On September 15, 2015, online media reports exposed the UN Human Rights Committee discussions in Geneva, Switzerland in which there was much focus on the activities of mining companies from Canada.

In the usual non-committal manner in which the UN does everything, the Human Rights Committee “addressed a series of concerns” about the problems caused by Canadian mining companies who operate mines around the world.

Was that was the best they could do?

Only to address concerns?

Women are being raped, men are being killed, village homes are being destroyed, environments are being poisoned, in certain areas in the world, these Canadian mining companies are causing devastation and misery beyond description and the most these UN officials were able to come up with, was that they “addressed a series of concerns”.

An article published by “The Diplomat” on September 15, 2015, reported:

  •  Barrick Gold, were allegedly involved in a mass rape of 137 local women aged between 14 and 80 in Papua New Guinea.
  • Acacia Mining (Barrick’s daughter mining company in Africa) were liable, “through complicity, for killing and injuring of locals at the North Mara mine by police guarding the mine,” … .
  • Violence at the North Mara project was allegedly perpetrated by mine security and local police… ..
  • Likewise, allegations of extreme violence, killings, and the mass rape targeting local women in Papua New Guinea, where Barrick Gold has managed the Porgera mine… ..
  •  Barrick Gold’s (practices) was also called out by the local alliance Justice Foundation for Porgera for the “catastrophically changed” subsistence and livelihoods of landowners in Papua New Guinea.

It is undisputed that the Canadian Government has ignored the complaints about mining companies operating overseas. The Government is perfectly aware of the public scandals of mining companies involving illegal activities such as corruption, bribery and fraud, not to mention murder, violence, rape, environmental disasters, etc – but they take no notice.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have a special unit to investigate Canadian companies operating overseas who are reported to be involved in corruption or fraud or other illegal activities. The RCMP will bring these Canadian mining giants such as Barrick Gold to account for their corruption and fraud activities overseas.

Similarly, in the UK, the Serious Fraud Unit (SFO) have been very successful in the past year cracking down on British companies who are guilty of corruption, fraud and other such crimes in Africa.

Acacia Mining, Barrick’s daughter company, has had a shocking run over the past 14 months in Tanzania since Bloomberg first published the story of the US$ 115 million case that Acacia are facing from the local mining company, Bismark Hotels (Mining) Limited for financial damages arising from Acacia losing Bismark’s mining concession. In this case, allegedly, Acacia is also involved in a very serious case of possible corruption and fraud involving at least one or more officials in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals.

If that was not enough this year, they have also been found guilty of tax evasion to the tune of US$ 41 million. And, the headaches continued with the public lambasting of their company in the Tanzanian Parliament.

There is more (like 255 legal cases against them) but let’s not labour the point… .

Needless to say, our friends in the UN Human Rights Committee have not taken any notice of the crimes and illegal activities by Barrick Gold and Acacia Mining:

In 2015:

Chile, Dominican Republic, Philippines, USA, England, Papua N Guinea, Canada, Tanzania, Argentina.

In 2016:

Dominican Republic, Tanzania; Argentina; USA, Papua N Guinea.

All around the world, these two mining companies are causing havoc, distress and misery.

Human Rights Watch published a report  [pdf file] last year that states clearly that Barrick Gold are known for problems involving human rights and hazardous substances and wastes. In addition, the report exposes “Barrick Gold had also not been transparent… .. ” and “sexual violence”.

Will someone in the UN Human Rights Committee stand up, ONE YEAR later, and have the courage to say to Barrick Gold and Acacia Mining, who together making up the biggest gold miners in the world, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

In Swahili, we say TUMECHOKA!!

Are you, in the UN, all talk or do you really care ?

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UN report urges dewatering of Solomons tailings dam

Radio New Zealand

The United Nations and the World Health Organization are calling for the immediate de-watering of a tailings dam at the closed Gold Ridge Mine in Solomon Islands, which is dangerously close to spilling over.

A researcher from the Australian National University, Dr Matthew Allen, visited the dam in January and has recently cited the much anticipated UN and WHO reports.

He says they call for immediate action and an end to a standoff between the Solomon Islands Government and Goldridge land owners with the Australian mine owner St Barbara.

“There would still be some risk there would still be some uncertainties but as far as I know, you know the reports make the point very strongly that those risks would be far outweighed by the potential environmental catastrophe that would ensue if the dam wall was to be breached.”

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Mining Ombudsman will promote, not solve, PNGs resource curse

A recent United Nations report [see below] on the resource curse in PNG highlights some of the failures of an economy based on large scale resource extraction. But the report ultimately falls short in exposing the real depth of the problems. Instead, it attempts to further promote this destructive, violent and failed model of development by recommending a new Mining Ombudsman in PNG.

The report, authored by New Zealand academic, Glenn Banks, has highlighted the failure of the PNG economy, which is based on large-scale mining, to improve the lives of ordinary people in PNG.

But in its analysis the report fails to comprehend the scale of the environmental and social destruction caused by large-scale resource projects and, in making its recommendations, it fails to understand the scale of the corruption and inequality in PNG.

Mining and other large-scale resource extraction destroy the environment that people rely on for their subsistence and cash incomes, divide communities which then fracture and lose all social cohesion, undermine traditional structures and culture and create a sense of dependency rather than self-sufficiency.

In PNG numerous Commission’s of Inquiry, an Ombudsman Commission and a special Task Force on corruption have all proved  ineffective in PNG in delivering any justice or accountability and with this history, the suggestion for a new Mining Ombudsman should be viewed as either naive and foolish or deliberately deceptive.

PNG ‘needs’ a mining ombudsman

Radio New Zealand

An academic says a mining ombudsman in Papua New Guinea could do a lot to solve conflict around projects.

The PNG economy is soaring on the back of huge returns from the LNG project but the country still has half its population at or below the poverty line.

Associate professor Glenn Banks at New Zealand’s Massey University wrote a United Nations Development Programme report on the challenges this poses for PNG.

He says they have advocated better governance and the delivery of public services, while the establishment of a mining ombudsman would help resolve conflicts between communities and mining companies.

“Having an ombudsman at a very senior level who has the ability to draw on international experience, to draw on legal expertise, human rights expertise, and provide a conduit for people to actually bring grievances against the operators, against the state, against other elements in their community, or elsewhere, could make a huge difference.”

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