Australia Fast-Tracks a $1 Billion Coal Mine

Australia Fast-Tracks a $1 Billion Coal Mine

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: June 11, 2020 SNIP: A giant Glencore Plc coal project in Australia has been fast-tracked as the nation turns to its vast natural resources to lift the economy out of its first recession in almost three decades. The A$1.5 billion ($1 billion) Valeria mine in Queensland has been designated a “coordinated project”, which the state said Friday would help to get new jobs happening quicker. That comes as the national government stands firm in the face of calls at home and abroad to shift away from the highly polluting fuel. “This new mine has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs as Queensland recovers from the extraordinary shock of the global coronavirus pandemic,” state Treasurer Cameron Dick said. “Coal mining has a long history in Queensland and will continue to be a major industry for many years to come.” The coal industry brings in around A$70 billion in annual export revenue. The government is betting on strong consumption of the fuel in Asia. Glencore’s proposed mine in the state’s Bowen Basin coal heartland will produce around 20 million tons a year of thermal and metallurgical coal, equal to about 4% of the nation’s output. That’s double the size of Adani’s controversial Carmichael project, also in Queensland, which has been targeted by climate activists for potentially opening up a new region to coal mining. Pembroke Resources Pty’s 15-million-ton-a-year Olive Downs met coal project, also in the Bowen Basin, is proceeding with the state’s backing after receiving environmental approval last month. Queensland is also encouraging the development of new gas resources, with a joint venture between Royal...
B.C. opens Sunshine Coast forest — home to some of Canada’s oldest trees — to logging

B.C. opens Sunshine Coast forest — home to some of Canada’s oldest trees — to logging

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: June 5, 2020 SNIP: A new plan plotting the course of the logging industry on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast over the next five years has placed a treasured forest, home to some of Canada’s oldest trees and an unofficial bear sanctuary, on the chopping block. The logging plan for the Elphinstone area, released by BC Timber Sales in late March, includes an abnormally high number of cutblocks for auction for the planning period, according to local conservation group Elphinstone Logging Focus. “We haven’t seen this many blocks in a five-year period before,” said Ross Muirhead, a forest campaigner with Elphinstone Logging Focus, which counted an unprecedented 29 blocks slated for clearcut logging from 2020 to 2024. Because of the area’s sensitivity, BC Timber Sales has usually limited logging to about one block a year. Muirhead is calling on the B.C. government to cancel 63 hectares of cutblocks slated for auction on Dakota Ridge, a roadless high-altitude forest west of Port Mellon, where he believes Canada’s oldest tree may be located. Some of the oldest trees in Canada grow in the 3,361-hectare Dakota watershed, with tree coring showing one yellow cedar is 1,036 years old, Muirhead said. Last fall in the Dakota area, Muirhead and his colleagues measured a tree that was too big to be cored because boring instruments aren’t made long enough. “This tree is wider than the oldest recorded tree in Canada,” Muirhead said. Elphinstone Logging Focus unofficially named the forest on Dakota Ridge the Dakota bowl bear sanctuary after the first black bear den study on the Sunshine Coast, in 2015, found an...
EPA Likely to Approve Mine That Threatens Alaska’s Largest Salmon Nursery

EPA Likely to Approve Mine That Threatens Alaska’s Largest Salmon Nursery

SOURCE: EcoWatch and Alaska Public Media DATE: June 1, 2020 SNIP: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers last week to say that it would not oppose or put a stop to a huge copper and gold mine near the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, as The Washington Post reported. The Pebble Mine, a vast copper and gold deposit, is worth an estimated $500 billion in natural resources. However, it is in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska, a resource that brings in $1.5 billion annually and provides a vital food source for thousands of Alaska Native residents who live there, according to PBS. An effort to build the mine at the heart of the Bristol Bay watershed has been an ongoing fight in Alaska. The project was seemingly dead in 2012, but it got a new lease on life with the Trump administration when the Pebble Partnership filed for a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late 2017. The EPA has raised many concerns about the project, saying that it may result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to “aquatic resources of national importance,” as Alaska Public Media reported. In response, the Army Corps of Engineers announced what that the least damaging way to bring the ore out of the mine would be to take it out around the north side of Lake Iliamna, according to Alaska Public Media. Christopher Hladick, the EPA’s regional administrator for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, wrote to the Alaska district engineer, Col. David Hibner, that the agency’s serious concerns about the...
Rio Tinto blasts 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site to expand iron ore mine

Rio Tinto blasts 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site to expand iron ore mine

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: May 26, 2020 SNIP: A sacred site in Western Australia that showed 46,000 years of continual occupation and provided a 4,000-year-old genetic link to present-day traditional owners has been destroyed in the expansion of an iron ore mine. The cave in Juukan Gorge in the Hammersley Ranges, about 60km from Mt Tom Price, is one of the oldest in the western Pilbara region and the only inland site in Australia to show signs of continual human occupation through the last Ice Age. It was blasted along with another sacred site on Sunday. Mining company Rio Tinto received ministerial consent to destroy or damage the site in 2013 under WA’s outdated Aboriginal heritage laws, which were drafted in 1972 to favour mining proponents. One year after consent was granted, an archeological dig intended to salvage whatever could be saved discovered the site was more than twice as old as previously thought and rich in artefacts, including sacred objects. Most precious was a 4,000-year-old length of plaited human hair, woven together from strands from the heads of several different people, which DNA testing revealed were the direct ancestors of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura traditional owners living today. But the outdated Aboriginal Heritage Act does not allow for a consent to be renegotiated on the basis of new information. So despite regular meetings with Rio Tinto, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation was unable to stop the blast from going ahead. The mining company signed a native title agreement with the traditional owners in 2011, four years before their native title claim received formal...
Indonesian miners eyeing EV nickel boom seek to dump waste into the sea

Indonesian miners eyeing EV nickel boom seek to dump waste into the sea

SOURCE: MongaBay DATE: May 18, 2020 SNIP: As Indonesia ramps up its mining sector to feed the world’s hunger for zero-emission vehicles, it is faced with a problem: what to do with all the waste. The country is the world’s biggest producer of nickel, one of the key elements in the rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles and energy storage systems. Now, companies building the nation’s first factories to produce the elements that power electric vehicles are seeking permission to dump billions of tons of potentially toxic waste into the waters of the Coral Triangle, home to the highest diversity of corals and reef fishes anywhere on the planet. In January, two companies presented plans to use the method, known as deep-sea tailings disposal, or DSTD, to Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs, according to presentation documents seen by Mongabay. Neither company appears to have received permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which must approve the practice, though factories pitching to dump waste in the ocean are already under construction. Nickel mining, increasingly pushed to meet rising demand for batteries, has long been a core industry for Indonesia. Smelting for battery nickel produces large amounts of acidic waste full of heavy metals, and how to deal with the waste is one of the most important decisions in a smelting project. Companies often choose DSTD as a cost-efficient or safer option to manage tailings, the byproducts left over from extracting metals from ore. It’s an alternative to constructing a dam to store the tailings or spending money to treat the waste so it can be returned...