Archive for the 'mining' Category

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Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages

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“From the air it looks like a huge lake, fed by many tributaries, but on the ground it turns out to be a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond nearby factories discharge water loaded with chemicals used to process the 17 most sought after minerals in the world, collectively known as rare earths.

The town of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, is the largest Chinese source of these strategic elements, essential to advanced technology, from smartphones to GPS receivers, but also to wind farms and, above all, electric cars. The minerals are mined at Bayan Obo, 120km farther north, then brought to Baotou for processing.

The concentration of rare earths in the ore is very low, so they must be separated and purified, using hydro-metallurgical techniques and acid baths. China accounts for 97% of global output of these precious substances, with two-thirds produced in Baotou.

The foul waters of the tailings pond contain all sorts of toxic chemicals, but also radioactive elements such as thorium which, if ingested, cause cancers of the pancreas and lungs, and leukemia.”

Read more: Guardian


US Judge Strikes Down EPA Water Rules For Mines

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“The Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its powers by setting up water-quality criteria for coal mining operations in Appalachia, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in Washington ruled that the EPA infringed on the authority given to state regulators by federal clean- water and surface-mining laws. A coal mining industry coalition sued the EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson, and the lawsuit was joined by West Virginia and Kentucky.

The ruling represents the latest setback to the Obama administration’s attempts to crack down on mountaintop removal coal mining.

Last year, the EPA revised standards issued in April 2010 by tightening guidelines on the practice of dumping waste from surface mine blasting into Appalachian valley waterways. Critics say that practice destroys the environment. The mining industry defends it as an efficient way to produce cheap power and employ thousands in well-paying jobs.

The EPA had written that the fundamental premise of its new guidelines was that “no discharge of dredged or fill material may be permitted” under any of three conditions: if the nation’s waters would be “significantly degraded”; if it causes or contributes to violations of a state’s water quality standard; or” “if a practicable alternative exists that is less damaging to the aquatic environment.”

Read more: NPR



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“Zimbabwe scientists are investigating the possibility that diamond companies operating in the country’s Marange region may have contributed to water pollution, Rough and Polished reports.

At the urging of the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), scientists from the University of Zimbabwe have taken water samples from a number of points along the Odzi River to determine if the charges are true. ZELA Coordinator Shamiso Mtisi said that he examined the water himself and testified to its impurity. Mtisi said this was evidence of effluent runoff from the cleaning and polishing operations of four nearby diamond firms.”

World Bank Needs to Make Infrastructure Work for the Poor

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“Kikwit is a town of almost one million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Its inhabitants have no access to electricity. Because the water pumps are no longer working, they have no access to clean water either. In the 1990s, the town made news through an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, which was helped by the poor sanitary conditions.

Kikwit is not located at the end of the world. It lies underneath the power lines of the Inga dams on the mighty Congo River. Yet the electric current that hums overhead is not meant for poor people. It is exported to the mining companies in the southern Katanga province. Over the past decades, billions of dollars have been invested in the DRC’s power sector. They have created a stark energy divide: eighty-five percent of the country’s electricity is consumed by energy-intensive industries, while 94 percent of the population has no access to electricity.”

Read more: International Rivers

Native Indian tribes facing ‘extinction’?

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“The push to exploit natural resources is having a huge impact on native Indian communities across Latin America.

All too often, they say, their interests and preserving their way of life end up coming second to energy companies and the pursuit of profits.

Serving as the most notorious example for indigenous groups is that of the oil giant, Chevron, which last year was fined an unprecedented $18bn.

The company was found guilty of heavily polluting large parts of Ecuador’s rainforest. But it is fighting the ruling in the international courts, and so far has not paid a single cent of the fine.

And it is not just oil. Mining is also a source of tension for Indian tribes around the region in countries like Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.

In Ecuador, the Kichwa people in the town of Sarayaku are fighting the government whom they accuse of granting drilling rights to an Argentine oil company without their consent.”

Read more: Aljazeera

Troubled Waters: How Mine Waste Dumping Is Polluting Our Oceans, Rivers, And Lakes

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“These mine wastes, or tailings, can contain up to three dozen dangerous chemicals, including arsenic, lead, mercury, and cyanide.

Each year, mining companies dump over 180 million tonnes of these hazardous mine wastes into rivers, oceans, and lakes – that’s more than 1.5 times the amount of waste that US cities send to landfills each year.

The Troubled Waters report examines the impacts of ten corporations’ waste dumping practices in water bodies in 11 regions around the world, including those in Papua New Guinea, Turkey, Canada, Indonesia, United States, and Norway.

The report calls on mining companies to stop using our oceans, rivers, and lakes as dumping grounds for their toxic wastes. The report recommends additional steps that must be taken by mining companies to protect people and ecosystems from irresponsible aquatic waste disposal, including dry stacking and backfill, where safe, and adopting measures to produce less waste.”

Read more: no dirty gold


Tibetan Village Stops Mining Project Near the Nu River

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A Nu Challenge Looms for Ethnic Groups

After the villagers of Abin successfully canceled the mining project near the Nu River in January, they claimed the mountain itself had played a role. In these remote regions of western China, where many non-Han ethnicities reside, traditional views and nature worship can still be found. But while Abin was successful, development projects continue to be a looming threat to the traditional livelihoods of thousands of ethnic villagers living along the Nu River valley.

In particular, the 13-dam cascade first proposed in 2004 has returned to haunt the landscape, as seen through the roadwork, tunnels, and make-shift workers huts and equipment springing up along the Nu River. The watershed is home to thirteen different ethnic groups, most of whom are subsistence farmers. As many as 50,000 largely Lisu, Tibetan and Nu villagers would lose their farmland and be forced to move to prefabricated houses in new towns and look for work. Moreover, China has been reluctant to accord its ethnic minority nationalities “indigenous” status under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which recognizes the rights of indigenous people to prior consultation and consent. The dams would even wipe out portions of the pilgrimage route around Mount Kawagebo – a serious blow to the Tibetans both in and outside the area. As one ethnic Tibetan told the New York Times in 2007:”

“If people are forced to move because of the project, they are going to lose the way of life that makes them special. It’s inevitable that people will lose their traditions if they move away.”

Read more: International Rivers


Josh Fox: Are We About to Witness the Liquidation Sale of New York and its Drinking Water?

“This is a conversation about community and sharing the voices from the gaslands of America. This is the story of Josh Fox, his movieGasland and about his current, Save the Delaware campaign. “Is this the liquidation sale of New York and our drinking water?” asks Josh Fox.

This is a week to celebrate the sudden November 17 cancellation of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) meeting where they were expected to vote on new gas drilling regulations, i.e. green-light fracking in the Delaware River basin that provides drinking water for 16.5 million people. On the 17th Governor of Delaware, Jack Markell announced that his state would be voting “no” on the new DRBC regulations that would have allowed 20,000 wells to be fracked in the watershed. Governor Cuomo of New York had already stated that he would vote “no” which left the expected “yes” votes of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, leaving the deciding vote to a representative for President Obama; a very complicated decision for him and one with risky implications. This is a movement about building coalitions, including the Delaware Riverkeeper that lead the numerous grassroots organizations organizing the event in Trenton, New Jersey on November 21.

So a momentary respite from the threats of gas drilling to the Delaware was celebrated on November 21 as hundreds of people traveled to the already scheduled rally in Trenton, New Jersey which included actors and activists, Debra Winger and Mark Ruffalo residents of upstate NY. In addition, Julie and Craig Sautner of Dimock, PA who are still without safe drinking water three years later, as promised by Cabot Oil, gave their support of the victory for the watershed and served to remind us of what’s at stake.”

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Coal ash spills into Lake Michigan after bluff collapse

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“It is unknown how much coal ash fell from the pile, but the spill left behind a debris field about 120 yards long, theMilwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports .

“Based on our land use records it is probable that some of the material that washed into the lake is coal ash,” We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty told the Journal Sentinel. “We believe that was something that was used to fill the ravine area in that site during the 1950s. That’s a practice that was discontinued several decades ago.”

As iWatch News has previously reported , coal ash is the leftover residue from burning coal that is known to contain neurotoxins like lead and mercury and the carcinogens such as arsenic. In a series of investigations iWatch News has examined the lack of federal oversight of the waste and its affects on communities near coal ash dump sites.

House Republicans championed legislation in mid-October that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate coal ash and give regulatory authority to the states — a move that would shift authority away from the EPA and reduce federal regulations that Republicans say are burdensome.”

Read more: iwatch news


‘Green peacemaking’ needed on Latin America’s environmental disputes

In 2007, Argentinians – fearful the Botnia paper mill would cause pollution – protested on a bridge on the border with Uruguay. Retrieved from:

“Policy experts believe access to water is the issue with the most potential for stoking conflict. The problem is likely to be exacerbated by climate change, because most of Latin America’s major river basins are shared and water disputes rapidly assume a political character.

Friction between Bolivia and Chile over the Silala river illustrates how water disputes can touch raw historical nerves. Similarly, long-standing border tensions between Nicaragua and Honduras have been complicated by the impact of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which changed the flow of the Negro river.

Hydroelectric power also cranks up strains. The potential for dams on the Usumacinta river has been a historic focus of tension between Mexico and Guatemala, and opponents of Brazilian mega-dams on the Madeira river warn they will also affect Bolivia and Peru.

Strains in the La Plata river basin are likely to escalate as development fuels rapid growth. The proposed Hidrovía project to straighten the Paraguay-Paraná rivers for better navigation to landlocked Bolivia and Paraguay also threatens the Chaco-Pantanal wetlands.

Pollution stirs this volatile mix, as in the Botnia case. On the other side of Uruguay, at its border with Brazil, biocides and fertilisers used in rice paddies have contaminated run-off into the Patos-Mirim lagoon system, stoking water quality disagreements.

Migration resulting from land exhaustion or climate change is another major potential source of conflict, especially if it brings into contact peoples with pre-existing tensions. The migration of 300,000 peasants from El Salvador to Honduras in search of land in the 1960s helped to spark the brief but bloody “Soccer War” of 1969.”

Read more: The Guardian