Waste From Collapsed Dam Kills Aquatic Life in Brazil River

Waste From Collapsed Dam Kills Aquatic Life in Brazil River

SOURCE: New York Times and The Guardian DATE: February 28, 2019 SNIP: A Brazilian environmentalist group says that toxic waste from a mine dam collapse wiped out life in more than half the Paraopeba River that flows past the city where the disaster occurred. SOS Mata Atlantica said environmentalists traveled 305 of the river’s 510 kilometers (190 of 315 miles) and found that aquatic life was unsustainable. The report said heavy metals, such as manganese, copper and chromium, were detected at levels higher than recommended, and it added that mud destroyed 112 hectares (277 acres) of native forests. The dam holding back iron ore tailings at a mine owned by Vale SA burst Jan. 25 in the town of Brumadinho, killing at least 186 people. In this region, 64% of fish species are found nowhere else on Earth. Brazil has the most abundant water resources in the world, but they are tapped with often reckless abandon and inadequate regulation. Less than one in five of the country’s 24,092 dams come under the supervision of the 2010 dam safety law, 42 are unauthorised and 570 have no responsible operator, according to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper. With a mere 154 inspectors for such a vast country, only 3% of Brazil’s dams were inspected last year, it said. The problems date back decades, but the risks look set to grow. The new administration of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, has neutered the environment ministry and pledged to ease the licensing system for new...
Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Suffer Wave of Invasions and Attacks

Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Suffer Wave of Invasions and Attacks

SOURCE: Amazon Watch DATE: February 20, 2019 SNIP: Emboldened by the institutional assault upon indigenous rights being waged by the regime of Jair Bolsonaro, rural mafias are organizing an unprecedented wave of land invasions and attacks on native territories and communities. As Brazil’s indigenous agency FUNAI is systematically dismantled, with its mandate to title and monitor indigenous lands handed to agribusiness interests and religious zealots, vast Amazonian forests are becoming increasingly vulnerable to exploitation. According to a report by the Brazilian NGO Repórter Brasil, there are currently fourteen titled indigenous territories under attack. Indigenous leaders and their allies speak of a general abandonment of state protections over indigenous lands, as Bolsonaro’s dangerous rhetoric emboldens a range of criminal forces – from illegal loggers and miners to land grabbers and speculators – to act with apparent impunity. Karipuna indigenous territory in the Amazonian state of Rondônia has seen a spike in illegal logging of ancient hardwoods. “These invasions will get worse,” said Adriano Karipuna, a local indigenous leader who has suffered threats from the loggers. “Bolsonaro preaches that [indigenous people] do not need land, that they do not work, and that we are like animals in a zoo. Those who were already wicked enough to [invade our lands] are now receiving [the president’s] support. These people now have no fear of coming onto our lands.” Aside from Karipuna lands, those of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau and Karitiana in Rondônia also face invasions, as do the territories of the Guajajara and Ka’apor in Maranhão and the Arara and Xicrín of Pará, to cite a few flashpoints in the Amazon. The Pankararu of Pernambuco...
Global energy transition powers surge in demand for metals

Global energy transition powers surge in demand for metals

SOURCE: Business In Vancouver (BIV) DATE: January 29, 2019 SNIP: By 2030, the amount of installed wind power globally will more than double, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Installed solar power will quadruple. And the number of electric vehicles will increase 1,389% – to 125 million from three million – by 2030, and 3,333% in 2040 to 300 million, according to the IEA. Given that each electric vehicle requires 83 kilograms of copper and each wind turbine contains about 3.5 tonnes of the metal, that represents a surging demand for copper – as well as other base metals – on a timeline that is shorter than what it typically takes to bring a new mine into production. Copper is just one of the base metals needed for things like wind turbines and electric cars, and it’s one of the metals for which there is no good substitute. Substantial amounts of iron and metallurgical coal are also needed to make the steel that goes into wind turbines and cars. If, as the IEA predicts, there are 125 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030, it will require roughly 10 million tonnes of copper – a 50% increase over current annual global copper consumption (20 million tonnes). The additional wind turbines built by 2030 would require roughly two million tonnes of copper – about 10% of the world’s current production. That’s not even taking into account how much copper would be needed for a quadrupling of solar power, and all the enhancements to the electrical grid and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles that will be required. Given how much...
A ‘Gold Rush’ at The Bottom of The Ocean Could Be The Final Straw For Ecosystems

A ‘Gold Rush’ at The Bottom of The Ocean Could Be The Final Straw For Ecosystems

SOURCE: Science Alert and Frontiers in Marine Science DATE: December 22, 2018 SNIP: As the world’s population scales to ever-greater heights, a growing demand for resources is driving humans to new lows. Commercial seabed mining seems imminent, highlighting the urgent need for coherent, effective policy to safeguard the marine environment. The three main seabed mineral resources of interest are cobalt-rich crusts, manganese nodules and seafloor massive sulfides. Within continental shelf areas, additional resources include phosphorites, ironsands and diamonds. No commercial deep seabed mining has yet taken place, but Nautilus Minerals and Diamond Fields International have obtained permits to extract minerals in the Bismarck Sea and Red Sea, respectively. Researchers at the University of Exeter and Greenpeace are now warning that a deep sea “gold rush” for minerals and metals could wind up causing irreversible damage to what are already fragile ocean ecosystems. “Many marine scientists are concerned that, once the first commercial contract for mining is issued, there will be no going back,” says co-author Kathryn Miller, a researcher at Greenpeace International. The losses, the authors say, will be on a scale so great that much of this will be practically irreversible. Even if we wanted to, it would be expensive and extremely difficult, if not impossible, for these fragile areas to fully...
For decades B.C. failed to address selenium pollution in the Elk Valley. Now no one knows how to stop it.

For decades B.C. failed to address selenium pollution in the Elk Valley. Now no one knows how to stop it.

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: December 4, 2018 SNIP: If you follow the crystalline waters of the Fording River up the Elk Valley, past Josephine Falls, you’ll discover a small pocket of genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout prized by fly fishers from around the world. The species is known for sparse, dark freckles that run along the contours of an arched back and the signature orange-pink slits that gouge both sides of its throat. Small teeth line the entirety of its mouth, even under the tongue. The meandering oxbows of the Upper Fording have created the unique conditions for this particular population of westslope cutthroat trout to remain genetically distinct, not having bred or ‘hybridized’ with other nearby populations. Yet these very same gentle waters now threaten to bring an end to this particular lineage of westslope cutthroat trout, first noted in the journals of Lewis and Clark and christened with the scientific name Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi. Selenium pollution, leaching from manmade mountains of waste rock, has inundated the waterways of the Elk Valley, depositing itself in the docile currents of the Fording and Elk Rivers. First, selenium settles in slow moving waters where it is converted into organic compounds by bacteria. It is then taken up by algae which are eaten by bugs which, in turn, are eaten by fish. As the contaminant accumulates in trout it can lead to ghastly facial and spinal deformities, an absence of the plates that overlay and protect the fish’s fleshy gills and — where deformities make survival impossible — death. In 2014 an expert report prepared for Environment Canada warned that selenium...