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Mining the Earth: 4 Nov 2014

Mining the Earth:

AK-Canada. Seabridge Gold owns KSM mine for which it has “early construction permits from the British Columbian government”.  The mine is in “the transboundary Unuk River watershed” between BC and Alaska, which makes for a very interesting problem.  First Nations and environmentalists are very concerned about the mine.  Now AK Senators Mark Begich (D) and Lisa Murkowski (R),  and Representative Don Young (R), are involved, too.

*AZ.  There’s a “rich copper vein on public and private lands” near Superior that Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto and BHPBilliton, wants.  A public campground, excluded from mining, sits atop part of the vein, so Resolution Copper is working toward getting legislation passed to fix that.  While “birders, campers, climbers and hikers” enjoy access to the campground, the area is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe which has been joined by several other Apache tribes, AZ Intertribal Council and the National Congress of American Indians in fighting Resolution Copper’s action.

*MN.  Antofagasta, “Chilean mining giant”, partnered with Toronto’s Duluth Metals to develop “a massive underground mine near Ely . . . [in] what could be the world’s largest untapped source of copper and other precious metals valued at perhaps $100 billion.”  Antofagasta is now buying the entire operation from Duluth Metals for $85 mllion.  Residents in and around Ely are not pleased and Friends of the Boundary Waters aren’t either.

*MN.  Momentum is building among opponents of frac sand mining in Houston County.  They’ve recently presented local officials with a petition, singed by 450 people, to ban frac sand mining in the county.

*WI.  University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire researchers are monitoring the air around frac sand mining sites.  “The study showed particulate levels between five to fifty micrograms per cubic meter” around the sites while the EPA “says levels at or below twelve micrograms per cubic meter are safe.”  More to come on this.

*Canada.  A Chinese firm will “help design a process to help [a Yukon mine owned by Copper North Mining] recover copper, gold and silver.”  They’ll also be shipping equipment to Canada.  As a result of this arrangement, costs could be reduced by up to 40%.  Reduced costs, of course, result in increased mining.

*Canada.  The new “Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act” is supposed to “deter and detect corruption by requiring companies [publicly traded in Canada] to report payments [of at least $100,000] they make to governments in Canada and abroad.”

*Canada.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a public meeting regarding the Canadian government’s “voluntary” approach for mining companies’ behavior in Latin America.  “[D]eaths, injuries, rapes and other abuses” have allegedly occurred at mining sites, as well as “long-term environmental damage, illegal community displacement and subverting democratic processes.”

*Latin America.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has “asked the Canadian government to pay heed to reports of human rights abuses in Canadian-owned mines in Latin America.”  Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy came under particular criticism:  it provides no “means for affected communities to obtain redress for damages done.”  Video.

*El Salvador.  OceanaGold of Australia is pursuing its suit against El Salvador for $301 million, claiming its “right” to the El Dorado gold mine despite El Salvador’s moratorium on mining permits.  Only 2% of El Salvador’s surface water is “suitable for human use” while cyanide levels in water near the El Dorado mine are “nine times higher than the allowable limit [and lead levels] more than 100 times above the limit.”  OceanaGold “is accused of utilizing kidnapping, intimidation and even murder against community members opposed to the mining project.”

*Colombia.  12 coal miners were killed in Amaga, Antioquia when the mine’s cavern in which they were working was completely flooded.  Somehow a perforation was made letting in subterranean water.

*Turkey.  Rescue work has halted for 18 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine.  Water flooded the mine, imperiling the workers, and rescue was well underway when a landslide hit, “fueling anxiety and despair among those hoping to find the workers alive.”  Water leakage detected two weeks ago was supposedly “properly stopped” and work continued at the mine. Some 30,000 mine coal mine workers have died since 1970 due to “poor safety conditions.”

*Australia.  If you’ve been following along, you know of the plans to ship coal over the Great Barrier Reef, which was bad enough, and to dredge around harbors to make room for the ships, which would further imperil the Reef.  Now comes a “pre-eminent” group of scientists who say “Australia’s plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef are inadequate, short-sighted and will not prevent its decline”.   The scientists specifically call for “a 10-year ban on dredging to develop new ports or to expand existing ones”.

*Australia.  Prime Minister Tony Abbott:  Coal is “good for humanity”, so good that mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Glencore are eager to get in and dig—and India is eager to import.  Meanwhile, the  UN is urging all countries to stop using coal and to “reduce greenhouse gas emission to zero by 2100”.

*Australia.  Contrary to the report above, BHP Billiton is slashing 150 jobs at its Mount Arthur coal mine in New South Wales,”adding to the more than 4,000 direct coal jobs” gone in the past two years. China’s waning appetite for coal is cited.

*Australia.  A coal ship, Sage Sagittarius, tagged “The Death Ship”, currently under investigation for the deaths of two Filipino workers, is now being scrutinized for “safety equipment and switches . . . in bad shape or plainly inoperable.”

*Antarctica.  Mining in Antarctica is prohibited—backed by 50 countries and  the Antarctic Treaty—until 2048, at which time the pact is to be reviewed.  Mining attempts in the Arctic have met with limited success due to difficulties imposed by the cold.  All of which goes to show that only earth’s coldest places are naturally, organically protected from humans’ ravenous appetite for underground resources–for now anyway.

The Moon.  Russia intends to “resume moon exploration [for] rare earth elements” in 2016, sending a spacecraft there in 2018 and “a manned mission” by 2030.  They’re aiming to bring back comet debris, too.  They do have a back-up Plan B, though—“to launch rare earth production [in the Urals] by 2017, using new technology”.

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