Mining the Earth
*Unbelievable giant machines used to tear at the earth to get to those mineral$, metal$ and thing$.
*AK. Some Alaskan politicians are upset that the Polley Mine disaster near Likely, British Columbia could be repeated at the Red Chris Mine (both owned by Imperial Metals) located “in the Stikine watershed, which is shared with Alaska” and BC. They’re also rattled by the proposed KSM gold and copper mine (owned by Seabridge Gold) in northwestern BC near Alaska. What to do? Well, they wrote to US Secretary of State John Kerry and asked him to intervene.
*KY. Headline says it all “New federal mining rule survives court challenge” as the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit brought by the National Mining Association and powerful friends. The mining companies didn’t want the feds designating them as “repeat violator of safety rules” with no prior warning and they didn’t want the feds imposing “pattern of violations designations” while the operators were appealing such. The Brody Mine was the case in point, and it surely was the poster child all the way ‘round.
*Canada. Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission is inquiring about the safety of “the country’s uranium tailings facility operators” in the aftermath of the disaster at the Mount Polley Mine in BC. The NSC wrote the 7 licensed uranium mining operators to remind them “that vigilance must be maintained by ensuring that tailings dams continue to be properly designed, constructed, operated” and so forth. The companies have to respond by September 15th.
*Mount Polley, BC. Almost buried in the above report was news that Bill Bennett, BC’s Mine Minister who endeared himself to so many during the worst days of the Mount Polley Mine disaster, has sprung into action, ordering “an independent investigation of the circumstances of the breach and inspections of every tailings pond at all permitted mines in the province.”
*Costa Rica. Infinito Gold of Calgary, Canada is suing Costa Rica’s government over a gold mine Infinito wanted to build “in a pristine tropical forest” but which was later rejected once Costa Rica banned open-pit mining. The suit—now up to about $1 billion—has been through Costa Rican courts, which sided with the government, so Infinito has taken it to “arbitration under the Canada-Costa Rica Bilateral Investment Treaty.”
*Sonora, Mexico. A “spill” at the Grupo Mexico-owned Buenavista open-pit copper mine in Sonora flowed into two rivers, not just one as originally reported. Rivers polluted with “10 million gallons of acids” are the Sonora and the Bacanuchi. An estimated 800,000 people are affected. How did the leak occur: “likely . . . from defects in newly built holding ponds at the mine” which somehow escaped regulators’ attentions. After dropping “heaps of calcium” into the water, the acid levels have declined, but water is not yet safe to drink. Criminal complaint has been filed; the Mexican Senate wants the mine’s operating concession pulled. Grupo Mexico is still whining about heavy rains; government officials say they lie.
*Brazil. Vale is now licensed to expand its iron ore operations at its Carajas complex in Para. By 2018, it should be producing 90-million tons annually, “or nearly a third of Vale’s existing annual output.” So, where is Carajas? Oh, just “in a remote corner of the Amazon rainforest” inhabited by the Xikrin peoples who waged quite a struggle against the mine, including threatening to set the thing on fire. Vale has now included in its work plan “an extensive program to restore vegetation . . . using native species of the Carajas National Forest.
*Venezuela. As everything else falls apart in Venezuela, so is its former shining reputation for managing malaria. Last year’s reported cases of malaria was “the highest number . . . in the last 50 years.” 60% of the 75,000 cases last year “were in Sifones, a tiny region of the country where gold mining—where workers drill for gold in mosquito-friendly standing water—is booming and health care is scarce.”
*Colombia. After a major wake-up call, Colombia has embarked on a one-month training program to educate 2,000 of those “engaged in mining activities on water management, proper manipulation of cyanide during gold extraction and the mining closure process.” They’re bringing in three experts to work with the team organizing the program and will go to “26 municipalities from Antioquia, Boyaca, Choco, Narino, Santander and Tolima”.
*Peru. “After years of ignoring the frantic gold rush fouling the Amazon forests of southeastern Peru’s Madre de Dios region, the government has launched a no-mercy campaign to crush it.” Helicopter raids on illegal mining camps, destroying illegal miners’ equipment, blocking their fuel supplies, etc. The goal: drive the miners out. But who are the miners? “[M]ostly poor, Quechua-speaking laborers from Peru’s Andean highlands.” They destroy the land and also poison it with mercury—30 to 40 tons in rivers annually. And yet, prosecutions are few and many of the camps are re-established within a few days of the raids.
*Central African Republic. Suffering on top of suffering in the CAR with 37 known dead when a gold mine, owned by Canadian Axmin but taken over by “rebels” a year or so ago, collapsed. CAR’s Ministry of Mines has no regulators in the area so illegal miners have simply taken over.
*China. Two coal mining tragedies within the week: 25 miners trapped in Anhui after an explosion and 11 miners missing after a mine in Jixi flooded. “Last year, 1,049 coal miners died or were reported missing”. And, although “tragedies remain commonplace, so do coverups”.
*Take a break from mining and cast your eyes upward–though on the ground you might actually see a petroglyph or two. Gorgeous panorama.
Photo via Imperial Mones