How the scramble for sand is destroying the Mekong

How the scramble for sand is destroying the Mekong

SOURCE: BBC DATE: December 19, 2019 SNIP: A crisis is engulfing the Mekong River, its banks are collapsing and half a million people are at risk of losing their homes. The entire ecosystem of this South East Asian river is under threat, all because of the world’s insatiable demand for sand. Extracted from the bed of this giant river in Cambodia and Vietnam, sand is one of the Earth’s most sought-after resources. Up to 50 billion tonnes are dredged globally every year – the largest extractive industry on the planet. “Extraction is happening at absolutely astronomical rates, we’re having an industrial-scale transformation of the shape of the planet,” says river scientist Prof Stephen Darby at Southampton University. His studies on the lower Mekong show its bed has been lowered by several metres in just a few years, over many hundreds of kilometres, all in the quest for sand. From highways to hospitals, sand is the essential component for industries as varied as cosmetics, fertilisers and steel production – and particularly for cement. In the last two decades demand has increased threefold, says the UN, fuelled by the race to build new towns and cities. China consumed more sand between 2011 and 2013 than the US did in all of the 20th Century, as it urbanised its rural areas. Sand is also used to bulk up landmass – Singapore is 20% bigger now than it was at the time of independence in 1965. “Every year we extract enough sand to build a wall 27m (89ft) high and 27m wide, all the way around the world,” says Pascal Peduzzi of the...
Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tesla and Dell sued over child-mined cobalt from Africa

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tesla and Dell sued over child-mined cobalt from Africa

SOURCE: CBS News DATE: December 17, 2019 SNIP: Some of the biggest technology firms in the United States have been accused in a lawsuit of complicity in the death and maiming of hundreds, if not thousands of African children who mine cobalt, a mineral vital to the production of the lithium-ion batteries in everything from smartphones to electric cars. The defendants named in the suit are Apple, Google parent company Alphabet, Microsoft, Dell and Tesla. The lawsuit was filed Sunday in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. by the non-profit organization International Rights Advocates, on behalf of 13 anonymous plaintiffs from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The complaint accuses the tech giants of “knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children in Democratic Republic of Congo (‘DRC’) to mine cobalt.” The suit demands a trial by jury for the plaintiffs, who include maimed child miners and the families of others killed in the cobalt mines. Human rights Lawyer Terry Collingsworth of International Rights Advocates told CBS News that his organization “traced the supply chain back from the mine where the children were either killed or maimed and have traced it back up to these companies.” The lawsuit calls for the companies to take responsibility for child miners in their supply chains, and change the way they source the metal. Research by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that in 2012 there were about 40,000 children working in the DRC mines. More than half of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, and 20 percent of that is mined...
B.C. mining company allowed to write own environmental report in U.S.

B.C. mining company allowed to write own environmental report in U.S.

SOURCE: Vancouver Island CTV News DATE: December 14, 2019 SNIP: Documents show the U.S. Forest Service allowing a Canadian company to write a key environmental report on its proposed open-pit gold mines in central Idaho after the Trump administration became involved. The documents obtained by conservation group Earthworks show British Columbia-based Midas Gold’s lobbying efforts after initial rebuffs from the Forest Service. The report, called a biological assessment, would typically be written by the Forest Service or an independent contractor. Its purpose is to examine the potential effect the open-pit mines would have on salmon, steelhead and bull trout protected under the Endangered Species Act. An internal Forest Service document in February 2018 shows the agency deciding to deny Midas Gold’s request to participate as a non-federal representative in writing the assessment because the massive project would likely harm protected fish. But by October 2018, Midas Gold was not only a participant, it had taken over leading the process and writing the document. “I think it’s particularly inappropriate for a mining company to be analyzing their own project,” Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks said this week. She obtained the documents as part of a public records request. Documents show ongoing lobbying efforts with federal agencies and then a meeting in May 2018 between Midas Gold and Dan Jiron, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s acting deputy under secretary for natural resources and environment. In November, Midas Gold met with Jim Hubbard, the Agriculture Department’s under secretary for natural resources and environment. John Freemuth, an expert on U.S. land policies at Boise State University, said it’s not unusual for companies to lobby...
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...