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Mining the Earth & A Fracking World Whirl: 23 Dec 2014


Seasons Greetings from the Children of Quinhagak, AK

*Everywhere. At this time of year predictions are in the air, and here are a few in terms of freeing ourselves from fossil fuels: 2017-18: electric vehicles take off; 2030: solar and wind providing 100% in “competitive markets, with no need for government subsidies”; renewables rule the day. Others, of course, don’t agree with such rosy forecasts.

*Everywhere. Double-dog dare them all you want, but the Saudis say they won’t cut oil output no matter what—even if oil drops to $20/barrel.

*Everywhere. Scientists are now able to see carbon dioxide concentrations on earth via satellite. What do they see? “[P]eak carbon dioxide values over northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil.” We’re “pouring 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year”, resulting in greenhouse gas concentrations “higher than they have been in millions of years.”

*Everywhere. Smaller mining companies are hurting, and the largest ones (BHP, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Value) are restructuring by selling or spinning off non-core assets, or toying with mergers. Iron ore, copper and silver are particularly hard-hit.

*USA. One more turn of the old revolving door, as the Obama administration hires a “new point person on White House-Senate relations” who reportedly is a former lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline, though, of course, he’s not going to have annnnnything to do with that while at the White House.

*USA. Gas prices at the pump are pretty much where they were in 2009.

*USA. After working real hard on developing standards for coal ash (which contains arsenic and lead), the EPA has decided it’s pretty much on par with your regular old garbage; that is, non-hazardous. One activist responded, “failing to regulate coal ash as hazardous is a slap in the face.” The EPA does say it’s taking steps “to establish dam safety requirements to address the structural integrity of impoundments” of coal ash.

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Mining the Earth & A Fracking World Whirl: 23 Dec 2014


Seasons Greetings from the Children of Quinhagak, AK

*Everywhere.  At this time of year predictions are in the air, and here are a few in terms of freeing ourselves from fossil fuels:  2017-18: electric vehicles take off;  2030: solar and wind providing 100% in “competitive markets, with no need for government subsidies”; renewables rule the day.  Others, of course, don’t agree with such rosy forecasts.

*Everywhere.  Double-dog dare them all you want, but the Saudis say they won’t cut oil output no matter what—even if oil drops to $20/barrel.

*Everywhere.  Scientists are now able to see carbon dioxide concentrations on earth via satellite.  What do they see?  “[P]eak carbon dioxide values over northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil.”  We’re “pouring 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year”, resulting in greenhouse gas concentrations “higher than they have been in millions of years.”

*Everywhere.  Smaller mining companies are hurting, and the largest ones (BHP, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Value) are restructuring by selling or spinning off non-core assets, or toying with mergers.  Iron ore, copper and silver are particularly hard-hit.

*USA.  One more turn of the old revolving door, as the Obama administration hires a “new point person on White House-Senate relations” who reportedly is a former lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline, though, of course, he’s not going to have annnnnything to do with that while at the White House.

*USA.  Gas prices at the pump are pretty much where they were in 2009.

*USA.  After working real hard on developing standards for coal ash (which contains arsenic and lead), the EPA has decided it’s pretty much on par with your regular old garbage; that is, non-hazardous.  One activist responded, “failing to regulate coal ash as hazardous is a slap in the face.” The EPA does say it’s taking steps “to establish dam safety requirements to address the structural integrity of impoundments” of coal ash.

*AZ.  Wildcat Silver of Canada is interested in developing an open-pit silver mine just outside the town of Patagonia which was a mining town long ago.  Today, though, old-time residents aren’t particularly enthusiastic about a return to mining.

*CA.  Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is going to “propose legislation requiring California’s massive pension funds to divest their holdings in coal.”

*CA.  Southern Cal Edison was quite surprised at the sheer volume of responses to its invitation for proposals for energy storage systems.

*CA.  West Sacramento doesn’t want six train cars of ethanol coming into the railyard daily, some parked for several days, then being mixed by Buckeye Terminals with gasoline (piped in from the Bay Area) which is trucked to gas stations.  Buckeye Terminals has sued.

*NE.  Customer-owned Lincoln Electric System is going to buy 73 megawatts of wind energy from one supplier, 100 megawatts from another and 5 megawatts of solar power, too, by 2016.  The decision to purchase alternative energy was based partly on “the volatiity of fossil fuel prices.”

*NE.  55% of Nebraskans want the Keystone XL pipeline, 29% opposed and 16% “unsure”, per a telephone poll of 800 registered voters. In favor:  71% of Republicans, 32% of Democrats, 50% of Independents/unaffiliated.

*NY.  Public debate in Rhinebeck about having “an accurate map of active mining sites” or a map showing mining sites regardless of whether they currently have state permits.  Mining supporters are threatening to sue.  Since 2003, active mines decreased by 22% and acerage by 26%.

*OH.  About 25 families near Sardis were evacuated last week when a natural gas leak at a fracking well got out-of-control.  TX-based Triad Hunter, the well operator, plugged the well “temporarily”, but once they tried unplugging it, a huge stream of gas went into the air.  Workers “called for help and left.”  Update:  The well had been dormant for over a year.  Rumor is families may be able to return home for Christmas.  Update:  Workers have finally capped the well.

*TX.  Gas flaring at the Eagle Ford Shale “burned off more than 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas”, producing as many tons of pollution in seven months as were produced in all of 2012.  Not all the flaring was state permitted, either.  The TX Railroad Commission (I know, I know, but they’re in charge of these things) has sent lots and lots of letters to the companies involved, reminding them they shouldn’t flare without permits, but with the price of oil so low, what’s a company to do?

*WV.  9 Jan 2014, powerful chemicals used in coal mining were released from Freedom Industries into the Elk River near Charleston and soon affected communities in nine counties.  Some 300,000 people were without potable water.  Now the US Attorney General has indicted four Freedom Industries executives for contaminating the water.  Jim White’s been following this story for awhile.

*Canada.  Responding to the plunge in oil prices, Chevon is shelving its plans to drill in Canada’s Arctic, at least for now.  ConocoPhillips announced it wouldn’t drill there either.  Apparently, Imperial Oil and Exxon Mobile are still planning to do so.

*Peru.  “Indigenous Peruvian farmworker Maxima Acuna de Chaupe withstood violent eviction attempts, beatings, and a legal battle to protect  her land from becoming part of an open-pit gold mine.” Newmont Mining Corporation, based in Colorado, did their best, but lost.   Acuna de Chaupa singing about her struggle on video.

*Uruguay.  Environmentalists are  upset that the government is classifying info as “confidential” when it comes to the proposed Aratiri open pit iron mine.  $1billion project by the Anglo-Swiss Zamin Ferrous Corp. which also includes a 132-mile underground pipeline from central Uruguary to the Atlantic.

*Chile. Chile is now emerging as the southern hemisphere’s renewable energy giant, particularly in the mining sector.”  They’re “building independent solar, solar thermal, wind and geothermal power plants” which are producing power at prices “competitive with or lower” than conventional producers.  Chile’s latest renewable power costs are $80/megawatt hour—compared to $95 for coal.

*Chile.  Rumor is the government might be modernizing collective contract negotiations so that scab workers will be outlawed during strikes.  This has the mining industry very nervous, occurring as it does during a time of “weak copper prices, due to slacker demand from China, and surging costs.”  Soothing sounds from some politician seem to indicate the mine owners won’t be hurt very much.

*UK.  BG Group oil giant was going to pay its CEO $19 million in stock for the year, but shareholders got upset, so the poor dear will only get $7.4 million.

*Zambia. Even the International Monetary Fund doesn’t like Zambia’s new royalty-only mining tax, and “has urged Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, to quickly resolve issues with mining companies”.  Barrick Gold Corp, running an open-pit copper mine in the country, says it’ll suspend operations.

*Guinea.  Global Witness has won its case; it does not have to “hand over personal information relating to a billion-dollar mining deal” involving the Simandou iron-ore mines it was investigating.  BSGR  Resources had sued, wanting “damages for breaches of their data protection rights.”

*Eritrea.  Charges of near-slavery conditions at the Bisha copper mine, owned by Canada’s Nevsun and the Eritrean government,  are becoming louder.  The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights has been denied entry into the country, a class action suit has been filed against Nevsun,  and thousands of people are fleeing the country monthly in sheer desperation.

*Russia.  Rosneft tried to buy “a Morgan Stanley oil-trading firm”, but the deal went poof! thanks to US authorities whose sanctions “have hurt Rosneft’s ability to finance the operations.”  Those sanctions also mean ExxonMobil and other Rosneft partners won’t be developing offshore oil in the Arctic.

*AustraliaMining is slowing down, leading to slowdowns in wages.  From 2003 to 2010, wages were up 3.72%, but over the past two years the increase slowed to 2.43%.

*AustraliaCoal’s getting so risky that Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase have confirmed they will not finance India’s Adani Resources $4 billion Australia coal mining project.

*Australia.  Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s been so insistent on keeping Australia out of global warming discussions that even UK Prime Minister David Cameron has taken notice.

*Australia.  Shell’s building a leviathan to float above the natural gas fields off Australia, tap into the wellheads, convert the natural gas into LNG (liquefied natural gas) and load that onto  tankers for transport to wherever needed.  Shell’s not saying what this behemoth costs.

*Tasmania.  Copper mining’s future is uncertain, following the deaths of three mine workers from a “mud rush”, and the shutdown of the mine.  Henty mine will be closing next year. Locals with various skills who used to contract with the mines will also be affected.

*Arctic.  The Arctic’s absorption of solar radiation has increased 5% during this century.  “No other region on Earth [exhibits this] trend of potential long-term change.”  Air temperature warming in the Arctic is 2 – 3 times greater than anywhere else, and September sea loss is at 13% per decade.

*Antarctica. In the 1940s and ’50s pilots took major risks to photograph the Antarctic, producing “tens of thousands of . . . historical images”—which have been archived until now.  Audio clip of researchers discussing the challenges in aligning the old photos with contemporary ones (no GPS back then, of course), and what we can learn from them

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