Between 2008-2017 it’s estimated that more than 340 people died, communities have been ravaged, property ruined, rivers contaminated, fisheries wrecked and drinking water polluted by mining tailings dam collapses. Estimates from the year 2000 put the total number of tailings dams globally at 3,500, though there are likely more that have not been counted.A new United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report states that as mining production escalates globally to provide the minerals and metals required for a variety of industrial needs, including green technologies, it is urgent that nations and companies address tailings dam safety.The UNEP report recommends that mining companies strive for a “zero-failure objective” in regard to tailings dams, superseding economic goals. UNEP also recommends the establishment of a UN environmental stakeholder forum to support stronger international regulations for tailings dams, and the creation of a global database of mine sites and tailings storage facilities to track dam failures.One idea would be to eliminate types of tailings dams that are just too dangerous to be tolerated. For example, mining experts say there is no way to insure against the failure of “wet tailings disposal” dams, like the Samarco dam that failed in 2015 – Brazil’s worst environmental disaster ever. As a result, they recommend storing all future tailings waste via “dry stock disposal.” The Imperial Metals Mount Polley gold and copper mine tailings dam disaster in British Columbia, Canada, dumped 24 million cubic meters (more than 31 million cubic yards) of mine waste and sludge into neighboring Lake Polley and polluting the Hazeltine Creek watershed. Photo courtesy of the Multinationals ObservatoryIt’s estimated that more than 340 people have been killed since 2008 in mining tailings dam failures –preventable environmental disasters that also saw the ruination of communities and property, the contamination of rivers, destruction of fisheries, and pollution of drinking water supplies.Spurred by those calamities, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has issued a report stressing the need for increased tailings dam safety around the globe. Tailings dams store pools of toxic mining waste.UNEP notes that large quantities of minerals and metals will be required in the near future for a variety of industrial needs, including the development of green technologies that support the UN´s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report offers two key recommendations and a number of policy actions to dramatically reduce tailings dam fatalities and accidents.The first recommendation: Mining companies should strive for a “zero-failure objective,” superseding economic goals. UNEP cites an expert panel convened in the wake of a major tailings dam failure in British Columbia, Canada, the Mount Polley gold and copper mine, which dumped 24 million cubic meters (more than 31 million cubic yards) of mine waste and sludge into neighboring Lake Polley. The panel concluded that “safety attributes should be evaluated separately from economic considerations, and cost should not be the determining factor.”The second key UNEP recommendation: Establish a UN environmental stakeholder forum to support stronger international regulations for tailings dams.Payal Sampat of Earthworks, a US-based NGO, notes: “Mine waste storage facilities are like ticking time bombs, putting communities and waterways in harm’s way in the event of catastrophic failure.”Aftermath of the Samarco tailings dam failure that sent a wall of toxic mud into the village of Bento Rodrigues, Brazil, killing 19 people and contaminating more than 500 miles of the Doce River. The UN report says that many such disasters are preventable if Mining companies strived for a “zero-failure objective,” superseding economic goals. Photo by Romerito Pontes licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licenseA record of disasterThe UNEP report was prompted by multiple serious accidents occurring around the world over the past decade. It points to China and Canada as the two countries with the worst recent safety record. Canada has had seven accidents since 2011, while China has had eight. Chile registered five separate tailings dam failures in 2010, according to the report, while the U.S. saw five tailings dam accidents over the past decade.Other countries have experienced disasters and grief. In Minas Gerais state, Brazil, on November 5, 2015, the Fundão dam collapsed releasing 50 million tons of toxic iron tailings into the Doce River – the nation’s worst environmental disaster ever. The dam held back waste from the Germano mine run by Samarco, a joint venture of BHP Biliton and Vale, two of the world´s largest mining firms. Nineteen people died when the slurry engulfed the town of Bento Rodrigues. Survivors fled for their lives to high ground and were left homeless. More than 500 miles of the river was contaminated, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.Ugo LaPointe of Mining Watch Canada told DeSmog Canada that these major disasters represent just a portion of the problem: “This is just a glimpse of what we know. A lot of the data is missing. We need an international database of mining spills and mining failures. If you don’t collect that solid data, you are not in the best position to correct the problems.”Along with increased international regulation of tailings dams, UNEP’s Safety is No Accident report also calls for the establishment of a first-of-its-kind global database of mine sites and tailings storage facilities to facilitate the tracking of dam failures. Research cited from the year 2000, estimates that there are 3,500 tailings dams around the globe, though that figure is likely low considering that there are around 30,000 industrial mines planet-wide. No one knows how many tailings dams there may be, or their current condition.The UNEP report also calls for financial securities firms to give mining companies an economic incentive to prioritize safety. Suggestions include a global insurance pool, mandatory financial securities for the life of every mine, and a global financial assurance system for mine sites.La Tortolas tailings dam high in the Andes Mountains of Chile. The dam was built in a seismically active area, but is designed to resist earthquakes. Photo by Lodecop licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licenseViews within the industryCanada’s mining industry plays a significant and influential role internationally, with 30 Canadian mining companies operating in Brazil, for example. Further, Canadian mining firms were given advance notice earlier this year about the Brazilian government’s plans to open up a vast region in the Amazon to mineral extraction. Canada’s mining sector contributed $56 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product in 2015.The Mining Association of Canada told DeSmog Canada it would soon be releasing a revised Tailings Guide informed by mine reviews conducted by an independent task force it had assembled.A spokesperson for the U.S. National Mining Association (NMA) told Mongabay via email that the UNEP report’s recommendations don’t apply to the United States, “where mining is heavily regulated for any releases to the environment and where the only event of this type in recent years was caused not by miners but by a faulty EPA operation in an old legacy mine [Gold King] in Colorado.”However, a Bureau of Reclamation audit of that spill found that the circumstances “are not isolated or unique, and in fact are surprisingly prevalent” in the United States. The audit also reported that the release was the culmination of events over several decades including an “inadequately designed closure of the mine portal” and misinterpretation of the groundwater conditions when it was reopened in 2014/2015.Asked whether the NMA plays any role in monitoring U.S.-based companies’ international operations, the spokesperson said that the NMA doesn’t regulate mining operations.LaPointe emphasized that: “The problem is that the industry is not yet acknowledging publicly that there are too many financially risky, marginal mines that are being permitted.” He maintained that marginally profitable companies and mines are a major part of the problem because they cut corners on safety and don’t have the money to guarantee the safety of people and the environment.Dry bed of the tailings dam at the Brukunga Pyrite Mine east of Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia. The mine was closed in 1972 and this photo comes from 1992. In 1974, a severe storm resulted in the retention ponds overflowing into nearby Dawesley Creek with water quality impacts occurring downstream. Tailings dams continue to be environmental hazards long after mine closures. Photo courtesy of CSIRO ScienceImage licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0“Reducing the number of dams that can fail”Suzanne Greene, a communications officer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Metals and Minerals for the Environment group, told Mongabay that a “key element of dam safety is reducing the amount of waste produced by the mine. MIT has a number of technologies under development that will help achieve this, such as low or no-waste extraction and separation.” Greene also pointed to new technologies, such as sensors that can be embedded in dam walls, to monitor and detect cracks or bulges in these structures in real time.As importantly, some types of dams may need to be abandoned all together. Speaking with Mongabay by phone, Earthworks’ Alan Septoff explained that there are “financial assurances that are intended to do reclamation after a mine completes operations, and financial assurances for when something goes wrong.” But in the case of a disaster as extreme as Brazil’s Fundão disaster, Septoff cited research by Chambers and Bowker which concluded that “it’s essentially impossible for a company to get insurance for this severity.” And logically, if companies can’t get insurance for a particular type of operation because it is too risky, that type of operation will be eliminated, preventing future disasters, and promoting safer methods.As an example, Septoff points to Canada’s Mount Polley rupture and to the conclusions the review panel produced: “The independent review panel, which was peopled with mining engineers working for industry, said there was no way to insure against ‘wet tailings disposal’ like the kind that failed at Samarco [in Brazil] and that all future tailings storage need to be ‘dry stock.’”The Mount Polley report added: “The Panel firmly rejects any notion that business as usual can continue.” And also that “The Panel does not accept the concept of a ‘tolerable failure rate’ for tailings dams.” Rejecting the idea of slow incremental change within the industry, the panel concluded: “dam failures are reduced by reducing the number of dams that can fail.”For Septoff, this conclusion contrasts with most industry rhetoric: “Industry is trying to give the perception that this problem is going to go away, and so people should keep investing, but if the true cost of this type of disposal is made known, then the prospects for responsible investors investing in them will go considerably down.”FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.A mining tailings dam in the Balkans. Estimates from the year 2000 put the total number of tailings dams globally at 3,500, though there are likely more that have not been counted. With mining operations fast expanding around the globe, more accidents are likely unless action is taken to safeguard tailings dams. Photo courtesy of WWF Corporate Environmental Transgressors, Corporate Responsibility, Corporate Social Responsibility, Dams, Degraded Lands, Drinking Water, Environment, Environmental Crime, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Law, forest degradation, Gold Mining, Green, Habitat Degradation, Infrastructure, Mining, Pollution, Public Health, Rainforest Mining, Water, Water Pollution Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Article published by Glenn Scherer
Oil and gas conference… Guyana at crossroads of transformationThe United States Government is encouraging Guyana to give careful consideration to the ways it will invest the revenues that will develop from its promising oil and gas sector.Natural Resources Minister Raphael TrotmanThe admonition was given by Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy, Terry Steers-Gonzalez on Sunday evening, as he addressed stakeholders and other participants during the opening of the first oil and gas conference hosted by the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA). The event was held at the Marriott International hotel, Georgetown.Steers-Gonzalez was exploring the very prospect of the Liza oil find in Guyana’s waters and what the revenues garnered could do for the country’s economy and its citizens.“The confirmed reserves guarantee the revenue to allow it to develop industries and infrastructure and to create a broad-based economy with true value added, which means jobs and prosperity, if done right,” Steers-Gonzalez said.The US diplomat said the revenue would also mean that Guyana would have enough money to allow it to fund activities that would see it becoming even greener than it already was. He said it would also be critical to think strategically now of ways to invest the revenues that would develop diverse industries, physical infrastructure, citizen security, quality education and health services. According to him, these are areas that will create significant job numbers. He said recent estimates confirmed that offshore oil deposits may be as large as 1.6 billion recoverable barrels of oil, with additional resources yet to be quantified. Estimates, he said continue, to change; each time growing larger and with the growth of the numbers, so do the expectations of citizens here. According to him, legislation and regulations that protect Guyana’s interest and promote transparent resource management at all levels are key components to success.“The list of important legislations is vast and spans across the spectrum from a petroleum act to regulation to a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), licences and fees for the new industry and occupational health and safety standards,” the envoy said, noting that not just the Government but the people have an opportunity to define the future, which starts with a carefully calculated plan of action formed from the collaboration of all stakeholders that targets job creation, investment and long-term revenue management. Speaking on the economic prospects of the sector, the diplomat noted that overall Guyana’s economy has been doing well and was projected to continue along this path.“The view from the United States from this exciting industry for Guyana is that the Private Sector will play an integral role in sharing the responsibility of shaping the future of the company as the country continues to develop new industries and the regulatory structures that will govern them, (and) the role of citizens and stakeholders will grow in scope and importance.”He said Guyana was at the crossroads of a transformation.Meanwhile, addressing the forum, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said Government dubbed 2016 as “the year for preparation” and 2017 “the year of implementation”.He said experts were retained and were currently assessing ExxonMobil’s and other operators’ applications for production and exploration licences.“Further, we are considering a proposal from one of the world’s leading offshore supply companies to establish a world-class base at Crab Island, Berbice, and are examining the possibility of utilising some of the available natural gas from the Liza field for energy generation as we transition to renewables.”Government is also addressing the viability of a refinery or refineries in Guyana.The conference, held under the theme, “The initiation of transformative industry, sought to improve knowledge and understanding of the opportunities that the oil and gas sector holds for Guyana’s economy.