Mining the Earth: 9 Sep 2014

Puebloan Grainaries in the walls of the Grand Canyon
Will the government be forced to lift its ban on Grand Canyon rock mining?

Mining the Earth: 9 Sep 2014

*AK. September 19th is the deadline for letting the EPA know if you oppose the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s beautiful Bristol Bay and if you support the EPA’s efforts to protect Bristol Bay “from the risks posed by large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit.” As proposed, the copper, gold and molybdemum mine is expected to cover 20 square miles with a containment pond holding “between 2.5 billion and 10 billion tons of mine waste”—in a seismically active region, no less. You can submit your comments here.

*AZ. In 2012, then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced there’d be no hard-rock mining near the Grand Canyon for 20 years, citing concerns about the watershed and other environmental factors. “Mining industry groups quickly sued, arguing it was irresponsible public policy.” US District Judge David Campbell, a Bush appointee, has announced a two-hour hearing on the matter next Tuesday.

*MA. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend.  Two men blocked a ship from delivering coal to a MA power plant last year by anchoring a lobster boat in its path. They were protesting use of coal “and other fossil fuels, the primary cause of global warming.”  Believe it or not, local prosecutors have dropped the criminal charges against the two men out of concern for “the children of Bristol County and beyond”—and one of the prosecutors plans on participating in the People’s Climate March being held this month in New York. (The two men, by the way, are going to pay a $2,000 fine each “for alleged civil infractions.”)

*VA. A class-action lawsuit against James C. Justice Cos. for firing miners at the Nine Mile Mine in Wise County “without first giving a federally required 60-day warning” has been decided in the workers’ favor in a US District Court. The judge ordered attorneys to determine a settlement amount for the 100+ workers involved. Jim Justice was the focus of a protest in downtown Roanoke, which was proclaimed “a spectacle . . . prompting a large police and fire response to take down the display,” including a banner declaring “Jim Justice: Toxic Spill Billionaire.” Five protesters arrested.

*WI. Gogebic Taconite lavished $700,000 on Wisconsin Club for Growth, and “quickly drew support from Gov. Scott Walker (R), Republican lawmakers and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group” which attacked and subsequently defeated then-Sen. Jessica King (D-Oshkosh) who wasn’t friendly enough to mining companies. Gogebic Taconite wants to ravage hilltops “in Ashland and Iron counties”—4 miles long and 1,000 feet deep—to get to the iron ore. Update: The Wisconsin Federation of Tribes has asked the US EPA “to use the authority of the Clean Water Act to stop the mine.” Bad River tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. said meeting with the EPA “was like a little bitty lightening flash in what will be a very cleansing thunderstorm, I think.” Update: Appleton WI Post Crescent editorial entitled: “[The $700,000] Mine donation eye-opening, appalling.”

*WI. State Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen announced penalty payment agreements with two sand mining companies (Arcadia Sand and Mississippi Sand) that didn’t protect sand and top soil as required by law, leading to the release of “piles of sediment into nearby streams” following a downpour. The firms will pay $60,000.

*WI. Looks like Weston, WI is going to reject “a proposal that would allow sand mining and the creation of two ponds near the Eau Claire River.”  Residents were concerned about truck and equipment traffic, dust, “and the possible effect on groundwater.” Final vote may be mid-month.

*British Columbia. The Mount Polley mine disaster in early August was much larger than originally estimated. The 1.3 billion gallons of poisonous waste reported at the time is now said to have been 2.8 billion gallons of water, 1.9 billion gallons of tailing, and 1.7 billion gallons of interstitial water (which “sits between the spaces of the ground-up rock in the tailings pond”). Elevated levels of “copper, iron, manganese, arsenic, silver, selenium and vanadium” found not just after the dam collapsed—but before it collapsed as well. People still being warned not to drink local water “if it’s cloudy.” Fish, on which many locals are dependent, from both Quesnel and Polley Lakes have “elevated levels of selenium, arsenic and copper.” Big, ongoing mess that just won’t quit!

*North West Territories. Something’s fishy up in the NWT, and it’s not salmon. Although mining companies are required to deposit sufficient funds with the government to cover site clean-up costs, no deposits were actually made in certain instances. Cooper Minerals of Vancouver gained access to a Great Bear Lake site without any security deposit; same with Alberta Star and ATW Resources. “The territorial government isn’t eager to talk about how much of a gap there is between the money set aside for clean-up and the actual liability.” No, prolly not.

*Quebec. Hearings are being held by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement in Quebec about uranium mining which got underway this year. So far, they’ve met with a couple of Cree communities where Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, Matthew Coon-Come, said the Cree will continue opposition to uranium mining.  Romeo Saganash, MP from Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou said “most of his constituents in northern Quebec” are also opposed. The Cree, and many non-native residents also, want “a moratorium on uranium development . . . right now.”

*Mexico. Back in early August, 10 million gallons of copper sulfate acid from the Buenavista mine flooded into the Sonora and Bacanuchi Rivers.  Schools closed for weeks, 322 wells closed, and “more than 3 million liters of water . . . distributed in trucks and bottles” to local residents. Clean-up costs estimated at “‘hundreds of millions or billions’ of Mexican pesos.” So far, the government has fined Grupo Mexico $3 million and a criminal investigation is  underway. This is not the first disaster at a Grupo Mexico mine.  In 2006, there was an explosion in their Pasta de Conchos coal mine in Coahuila; only two bodies of the 65 miners trapped in the mine were ever recovered. German Larrea Mota Velasco owns Grupo Mexico but has uttered not one word about the Buenavista mine disaster. He is the second wealthiest man in Mexico, right behind Carlos Slim Helu.

*Norway/Sweden/Finland. Mining companies from Britain, Australia and Canada are lining up to start digging up the earth in Northern Europe in search of “uranium, iron ore, nickel, phosphorus, and valuable rare earth minerals.” Mega-bucks to be made in mega-mines in the northernmost regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland, usually inhabited by the indigenous peoples, the Sami, who are “protesting strongly.” 349 mining applications so far this year, 243 of which are for Finland. Railroads being built, “millions of tons” of mining waste to be generated, contaminating  water and reindeer—and Sami—habitat. As if that’s not bleak enough, apparently there’s poor enforcement of what regulations exist.

*Queensland, AustraliaAdani Group, huge India-based mining company, is getting ready to build “a $16.5 billion mine and rail project in Queensland’s Gallilee Basin.” Already there’ve been cholera outbreaks among existing workers due to lack of toilet facilities. Wages are low with some workers complaining they’ve never been paid at all. Eventually, 3000-3500 employees will be directly involved—although the Miners’ Union has not been notified. And to top it all off, Adani intends to ship “millions of tonnes of coal through the Great Barrier Reef!” What could possibly go wrong?

*Nice break from the bleak world of mining.

Photo by Drenaline released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

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