mining

CNN Wrongly Blames Electric Cars for Unethical Cobalt Mining

Read time: 6 mins
A foreman holds cobalt in his hand in Rwanda

This week, CNN published a startling multimedia report on cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The investigation revealed troubling conditions in so-called “artisanal” cobalt mines, where hand mining operations are carried out with a combination of unsafe working conditions and child labor. As is all too often the case with resource extraction — whether for cobalt in Congo, oil in Ecuador, or coal in West Virginia — unsafe, unhealthy local labor practices deserve media exposure.

Unfortunately, CNN’s promotion of the investigation and headline misappropriate the blame, leaving casual readers to conclude that electric vehicles are responsible for these awful labor conditions.

U.S. Looks to Crack Down on Pollution of Montana River from B.C. Coal Mines

Read time: 7 mins
Elk Valley Teck Coal mines Garth Lenz

The continuous flow of dangerous pollution from B.C.’s Elk Valley coal mines into a Montana watershed is a top discussion item for Canadian and U.S. delegates convening at a bilateral meeting in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

Selenium from five metallurgical coal mines owned and operated by Teck Resources has been leaching into B.C.’s Elk River and flowing southeast into Montana’s Kootenai River watershed for decades. Contamination levels measured in U.S. waters exceeds maximum concentration limits outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Selenium is released from waste rock piled at Teck’s large-scale open-pit coal mines, where rainfall and snowmelt draw it into the Elk and Fording Rivers. Selenium can be harmful to biological organisms at even small amounts and causes deformities in fish and birds.

Canada’s Environmental Fines are Tiny Compared to the U.S.

Read time: 4 mins
Mount Polley mine disaster

This week marks the three-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster, which sent 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into Quesnel Lake, making it one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history.

It’ll be a stinging reminder of the tailings pond collapse for local residents, especially considering no charges have been laid against Imperial Metals, owner and operator of Mount Polley.

Come August 5 it will be too late for B.C. to lay charges, given a three-year statute of limitations — however federal charges can be laid for another two years.

But here’s the thing: under the federal Fisheries Act, Mount Polley can receive a maximum of $12 million in fines: $6 million for causing harm to fish and fish habitat and $6 million for dumping deleterious substances without a permit into fish bearing waters.

Vancouver Company At Centre of Gold-Mining Controversy on Edge of Yellowstone National Park

Read time: 8 mins
Emigrant Gulch

On the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, an area known internationally for its abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery, a Vancouver-based junior mining exploration company is causing community ructions over its plan to search for gold at Emigrant Gulch, a fragile ecosystem about four kilometres from the Yellowstone River and 24 kilometres from the park boundary.

Lucky Minerals Inc., a company that lists only the Montana proposal in its financial statements, wants to drill up to 46 core holes on privately-owned land to assess gold, copper, silver and molybdenum deposits in an area where there has been mining in the streambed since the 1880s.

If the results are positive and permits are issued, the company will look for investment to construct an underground mine, which could be in operation in 10 to 15 years, Shawn Dykes, Lucky vice-president, said in an interview.

But the proposal has brought overwhelming opposition from residents who are concerned about both the environmental effects and the company’s finances, which they fear are not solid enough to ensure the area is remediated.

Alaskan Coalition Calls on U.S. to Investigate B.C. Mines

Read time: 4 mins
Mount Polley Mine Spill

Six B.C. mines pose threats to Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers and should be investigated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, according to a coalition of conservation groups and Alaskan First Nations who are invoking legislation that says it is the Interior Department’s duty to investigate when foreign nationals may be affecting U.S conservation treaties.

A petition presented to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell suggests that B.C. mines close to the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds diminish the effectiveness of two treaties that protect Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, grizzly bears and woodland caribou.

The treaties are the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere.

The coalition of U.S. and Canadian groups, including Earthjustice, the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, Sierra Club of B.C., Craig Tribal Association, Friends of the Stikine Society and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, are echoing a previous call by Alaska’s congressional delegation to refer the transboundary mines controversy to the International Joint Commission.

Democratic Senator Believes His Party “In Denial” About Fossil Fuel Importance

Read time: 4 mins

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia has always been at odds with the majority of his fellow Democrats in terms of environmental protection, but his statements a few weeks ago show that he might have actually become an enemy to the environment.
 
In early April, Manchin told The Wall Street Journal that while Republicans have plenty of “deniers” on their side who refuse to admit that climate change is real, the Democratic Party has plenty of “deniers”, too. According to Manchin, those “deniers” are the ones who believe that the United States can move to a fossil fuel-free society.
 
In his own words:  “Even worse than that, we have deniers that believe we’re going to run this country or run this world without fossil…That’s a worse denier, thinking they’re just going to just shift it and everything’s going to be hunky-dory.”

Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship Sentenced to One Year in Prison For Conspiracy to Evade Mining Safety Rules

Read time: 6 mins

Disgraced coal baron Don Blankenship received the maximum possible sentence today for his misdemeanor conspiracy conviction, in a criminal case spurred by the Upper Big Branch disaster that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia in 2009.

Mr. Blankenship was acquitted in December of three felony charges over his direct personal responsibility for those deaths. But he was convicted on conspiracy to violate federal mining safety standards. Today, a federal judge handed down a sentence of one year in prison, plus a year of probation and a fine of $250,000 for Mr. Blankenship's crimes.

Had he been convicted of all charges, Mr. Blankenship would have faced a maximum of over thirty years.

For over a quarter century, Mr. Blankenship ruled with an iron fist as the notoriously aggressive former head of Massey Energy, one of the nation's largest coal mining companies.

New Report Identifies The Fossil Fuels We Must Keep In The Ground To Avert Catastrophic Climate Change

Read time: 3 mins

As the US Senate haggles over a comprehensive energy bill, climate activist groups have identified the global fossil fuel reserves that must be kept in the ground if we’re to limit global warming to the critical 2-degree-Celsius threshold.

This week saw the Senate debating the hotly contested energy bill, which has been criticized by environmentalists for including a number of fossil fuel industry giveaways, including expedited permitting for liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and subsidies for coal technology, among other troublesome provisions.

Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA) and Brian Schatz (HI) responded by introducing an amendment into the energy bill designed to express Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science.

Senate Democrats ultimately stopped the energy bill from moving forward on Thursday over the fact that a $600-million amendment to address the water crisis in Flint, MI was not included.

The US is not the only country that needs to do some soul-searching when it comes to energy policies, however.

US Public Overwhelmingly Prefers To Protect Public Lands, Continue Developing Clean Energy

Read time: 4 mins

If Twitter is any indication, the court of public opinion has ruled against the armed “militiamen” who took over a wildlife refuge in Burns, Oregon.

They’ve been called #YallQueda, #VanillaISIS and #YeeHawdists, and they claim to have stormed the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in response to the federal sentence handed down to convicted arsonist and rancher Dwight Hammond.

Hammond is considered a hero by right-wing movements in the Western United States that think it’s heroic to fight federal authorities who seek to protect lands that belong to all Americans. But, cruel hashtags notwithstanding, it wasn’t clear how much support the YeeHawdists and the pro-logging, pro-mining, pro-ranching movements that spawned them have among the general public.

Until now. Thanks to Colorado College’s sixth annual Conservation in the West Poll, we have the data.

B.C. Minister Bennett’s Visit Fails to Ease Alaskans’ Mining Concerns

Read time: 4 mins
Bill Bennett

Promises of a closer relationship between B.C. and Alaska and more consultation on B.C. mine applications are a good start, but, so far, Southeast Alaska has no more guarantees that those mines will not pollute salmon-bearing rivers than before this week’s visit by B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, say Alaskan fishing and conservation groups.

Bennett, accompanied by senior civil servants from the ministries of Energy and Mines and Environment, took a conciliatory tone as he met with state officials, policy-makers and critics of what is seen as an aggressive push by B.C. to develop mines in the transboundary area, close to vitally important salmon rivers such as the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

I understand why people feel so strongly about protecting what they have,” Bennett said in a Juneau news conference with Alaska Lt. Governor Byron Mallott.

There’s a way of life here that has tremendous value and the people here don’t want to lose it. I get that,” he said.

But promises of a strengthened dialogue and more opportunities to comment on mine applications fall far short of a growing chorus of Alaskan demands that the issue be referred to the International Joint Commission, formed under the Boundary Waters Treaty, which forbids either country from polluting transboundary waters.

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