The Destructive Practice That Washington Allows Virtually Unregulated

The Destructive Practice That Washington Allows Virtually Unregulated

SOURCE: Sierra Club DATE: November 14, 2019 SNIP: There’s no doubt Washingtonians care deeply about protecting salmon. And yet, Washington State still allows a destructive recreational gold mining practice called suction dredge mining to go virtually unregulated. Suction dredge mining is a form of recreational mining that uses gas-powered dredges to vacuum up rocks, gravel, and sediment from the bottom of creeks and rivers to search for gold. Scientific studies have shown this practice degrades water quality and destroys habitat for salmon and steelhead. This harmful activity occurs all over Washington State, including areas designed as critical habitat for endangered Chinook salmon, which are the primary food source for our endangered Southern Resident orca. Places like The Yakima Basin, Upper Columbia, Spokane River are all being damaged by suction dredge mining–so too are Puget Sound rivers like the Skykomish, Skagit, and Nooksack. It’s past time to end this destructive practice in critical habitat, we must push to regulate it throughout the state. Washington is the only western state that still allows suction dredge mining without effective regulatory oversight. Consequently, Washington State has become a target for out-of-state miners, creating much greater pressure on our streams and a dangerous situation for our water quality and native fish. The Department of Fish and Wildlife prohibits fishing in some critical habitat areas (which we support) and then ridiculously allows suction dredge mining to occur in these same waters. It’s clear that we need a comprehensive regulatory plan that doesn’t undermine current recovery...
Strip Mining Could Come to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Strip Mining Could Come to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

SOURCE: Rolling Stone DATE: August 24, 2019 SNIP: Under President Donald Trump, the United States has seen the largest reduction of nationally protected lands in the country’s history. One of the victims of the administration is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which will soon be open to strip mining and gas extraction, according to a Bureau of Land Management document released on Friday. “These management plans seek to cement the Trump administration legacy of destroying the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument,” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “That seems to be the objective certainly for excluded lands, which are going to be in large part available for mineral leasing and extractive development. To make matters worse, the BLM is going to prioritize motorized recreation across a large swath of the original 1.9 million acres.” The plan identifies up to 700,000 acres that used to be federally protected that will be available to mining as well as oil and gas companies. Since the monument was reduced, 19 companies have already filed to begin work there. The plan also proposes allowing cattle to graze on the land, which the administration acknowledges could also lead to adverse environmental effects. Just last month, the administration also published plans for Bears Ears National Monument, which it has reduced in size by 85 percent. [NOTE: If you want to know more about ranching and mining interests in the West and how corrupt the whole thing is, read This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West by Christopher Ketcham. It’s an eye...
Bolsonaro has blessed ‘brutal’ assault on Amazon, sacked scientist warns

Bolsonaro has blessed ‘brutal’ assault on Amazon, sacked scientist warns

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 9, 2019 SNIP: Illegal loggers are ramping up a “brutal, fast” assault on the Brazilian Amazon with the blessing of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, the sacked head of the government agency tasked with monitoring deforestation has warned. Speaking to the Guardian five days after his dismissal, Ricardo Galvão said he was “praying to the heavens” the far-right leader would change tack before the Amazon – and Brazil’s international reputation as an environmental leader – were ruined. “This government is sending a very clear message that the control of deforestation will not be like it was in the past …. And when the loggers hear this message that they will no longer be supervised as they were in the past, they penetrate [the rainforest],” Galvão said, claiming “enormous” damage had already been done since Bolsonaro took power in January. “It is a question of brutal, fast economic exploitation.” “There is no doubt about it. They have much closer relations with the loggers [than previous governments] … The president has said explicitly that he wants to make deals with American companies to exploit minerals in indigenous reserves,” Galvão said. Galvão said he hoped the international community would now support “those Brazilians who are struggling against this state of affairs, and force the government to understand that increasing deforestation in the Amazon will only cause harm to Brazil – and to the government itself”. That seems unlikely. This week, as new Inpe data emerged suggesting an “explosion” of Amazon deforestation in July, Bolsonaro scoffed at his portrayal as Brazil’s “Captain Chainsaw” and mocked Emmanuel Macron and...
Dozens die in Congo mine accident

Dozens die in Congo mine accident

SOURCE: Financial Times, Aljazeera, Reuters DATE: June 27, 2019 SNIP: The number of artisanal miners killed by a landslide at a copper and cobalt mine run by Glencore in Congo rose to 43 on Friday and officials said the army would deploy at the mine as the search for more victims continued. “The old terraces gave way, causing significant amounts of material to fall,” Joseph Yav Katshung, the director of cabinet for the governor of Lualaba told Reuters. “KOV is a delicate site and presents many risks.” Illegal mining has become a growing problem in the Katanga region of the Congo. Local miners in Kolwezi are mining within concessions owned by large companies, threatening their operations as well as their ability to expand to mine new deposits. The DRC produces more than 60 per cent of the world’s supply of cobalt, a crucial metal for electric car batteries. But last year as much as 30 per cent of cobalt was estimated to have come from miners who dig the metal from the earth without any safety equipment. Thousands of illegal miners operate in and around mines in southern Congo, which produce more than half of the world’s cobalt, a key component in electric car batteries. Mine disasters in Africa have cost the lives of numerous miners, especially unauthorised artisanal miners who operate without safety standards or regulations. At least nine illegal gold miners died in Zimbabwe when they were trapped in a mine last month. Twenty-two died in a previous Zimbabwean gold-mine flood in February, and 14 tin miners were buried alive in Rwanda after heavy rains in January....
Tailings dam failures linked to hefty bonuses for mine managers

Tailings dam failures linked to hefty bonuses for mine managers

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: June 24, 2019 SNIP: Generous bonuses for mine managers, rewarding them for cutting costs or increasing production, are linked to tailings dam failures, a new research paper has found. The new study, published in the journal Resources Policy, which documents four catastrophic collapses, including the failure of the Mount Polley tailings dam in B.C. in August 2014, found that all four companies had increased production or reduced operating costs prior to tailings dam failures. Imperial Metals, which owns the Mount Polley copper and gold mine, increased production by 23 per cent in the second quarter of the year over the previous financial quarter. Imperial Metals, in common with many mining companies, did not disclose incentives offered to middle managers, but two companies out of the four case studies showed hefty bonus schemes for managers and the practice is believed to be widespread in the mining industry. “We believe that the bonus system used to recompense middle management encourages managers to take more risks in order to generate short-term profits at the risk of serious long-term accidents,” said the paper, authored by Margaret Armstrong, Renato Petterd and Carlos Pettard. The number of tailings dam failures worldwide has doubled in the past 20 years from eight between 1999 and 2003, to 16 between 2014 and 2018. In addition to the push to reduce costs and increase production, increased amounts of waste from mines is also factoring into the increase in accidents, the study says. “Advances in mining technology have made it possible to exploit lower grade deposits, despite decreasing commodity prices, which means disposing of more rejects...