Category Archives: Mining

US pushing tar sands into Europe despite EU proposed block

IPS reports on US efforts to push tar sands oil into the EU despite resistance in Europe.

Newly publicized internal documents suggest that U.S. negotiators are working to permanently block a landmark regulatory proposal in the European Union aimed at addressing climate change, and instead to force European countries to import particularly dirty forms of oil.

Thousands of acres of trees and plants, in an area the size of Florida, must be stripped away and the ground torn apart to mine for tar sands oil.

Thousands of acres of trees and plants, in an area the size of Florida, must be stripped away and the ground torn apart to mine for tar sands oil.

Current negotiating texts for the TTIP talks are unavailable. But critics say the negotiations are forcing open the massive E.U. market for a particularly heavy form of petroleum known as tar sands oil, significant deposits of which are in the Canadian province of Alberta.

The oil industry has repeatedly expressed concern over the European Union’s potential tightening of regulations around transport fuel emissions, first proposed in 2009 for what’s known as the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). Yet according to a report released Thursday by Friends of the Earth Europe, the sector now appears to have convinced the U.S. government to work to permanently block the implementation of this standard.

 

 

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Brazil: Canadian gold mine loses license

July 1, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

http://infoamazonia.org

http://infoamazonia.org

Brazilian federal judge Claudio Henrique de Pina has revoked Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining Corp.‘s environmental license for the construction of the $750 million Volta Grande open-pit gold mine near the Xingu river in the northern state of Pará, the federal Public Ministry office in the state announced the evening of June 25. Upholding a suspension ordered last November, the judge ruled that Belo Sun had failed to address the “negative and irreversible” impact the mine would have on three indigenous groups in the area, the Paquiçamba, the Arara da Volta Grande and the Ituna/Itatá. The communities are already under threat from the construction of the nearby Belo Monte dam, which will cut water flows by 80% to 90% when it goes into operation, according to the government’s National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI).

A Belo Sun news release said the decision only means that the company needs to complete a five-month impact study; it has already commissioned the study, which will start as soon as researchers have permission to access indigenous lands, according to the news release. The mine was expected to open in 2016 and to produce 313,100 ounces of gold each year over a 10-year lifetime; if built, it will be the largest gold mine in Brazil. Belo Sun’s shares were down nearly 10% on the Toronto Stock Exchange by noon on June 26. (Ministério Público Federal no Pará press release, June 25; Reuters, June 26; Mining.com, June 26). This is the latest in a series of reversals for gold mining projects in Latin America, most notably Barrick Gold’s mammoth Pascua Lama mine on the Argentine-Chilean border in the Andes. Continue reading

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Indian forest villagers rise up to halt UK firm’s bid to clear land for mining

By Gethin Chamberlain, June 28, 2014. Source: The Observer

Children collect flowers in the Mahan forest, which is threatened by a coalmining project run by the British-registered company Essar. Photograph by Greenpeace

Children collect flowers in the Mahan forest, which is threatened by a coalmining project run by the British-registered company Essar. Photograph by Greenpeace

India‘s new government faces a crucial test of its support for big business over plans to let a British-registered energy company cut down a tract of forest to make way for an open cast coalmine.

Essar Energy – owner of the UK’s Stanlow oil refinery – and its partner, the Hindalco company, were granted permission to mine in the Mahan forest of Madhya Pradesh after a lobbying campaign which reached right to the top of the previous government.

In letters to senior figures, including the prime minister and finance minister, they argued that the coal was needed to fuel a power station and aluminium smelting unit that were crucial for the country’s economic development.

But the plans have placed them on a collision course with the thousands of people who rely on the forest for their livelihoods and with environmental campaigners, including Greenpeace, who are determined to stop the mine.

Among those directly affected are more than 5,000 members of tribal communities with legal rights to use the forest. Greenpeace claims that the mine would mean the felling of more than five million trees, affecting the livelihoods of as many as 50,000 people, with at least two villages being razed. It has also raised concerns about the effect on wildlife, which includes leopards and sloth bears. Tigers and elephants are reported to be occasional visitors.

The deal is also one of several allocations of mining rights which are the subject of a criminal investigation into corruption. An official audit found many had been significantly undervalued and the political row over what became known in India as the “coal scam” further dented trust in the Congress-led government and helped consign it to defeat in this year’s general election.

A similar standoff between the UK’s Vedanta and villagers in Orissa over plans to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills ended in defeat for the company.

But the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) came to power promising to make it easier to do business in India and the billionaire owners of the two firms will expect it to make good on that pledge.

The decision to allow mining to go ahead in Mahan was granted despite staunch opposition from former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

A final decision is expected shortly but a report to new prime minister Narendra Modi this month from India’s powerful Intelligence Bureau, labelling Greenpeace as “a threat to national economic security”, suggests the environmentalists face a struggle.

The coal block was allocated by a Congress-led government in 2006 to provide coal for Essar’s planned power station and to fuel an aluminium smelter owned by Hindalco. But environmental clearances proved hard to secure and by 2010 the companies were frustrated.

Essar chairman Shashi Ruia decided to lobby prime minister Manmohan Singh personally. On 5 March 2010 he wrote to Singh to “earnestly request” clearance, pointing out that 65% of the work on the power station had been completed and complaining that three years after being allotted the coal block, the company was still waiting on permission from the environment ministry.

The delay, Ruia argued, would result in “avoidable huge loss to us as well as the country”. Singh copied the letter to the environment and forest minister, Ramesh, with a note asking him to deal with it “expeditiously”.

Six days later, Ramesh met Ruia. In a note of the meeting sent to the prime minister’s permanent secretary, he pointed out that “the Mahan coal block should never have been allowed in the first place” and that giving permission for mining would “open up a Pandora’s box which we should avoid at all costs”.

Undeterred, Ruia tried again. On 16 August 2010 he wrote to Singh to update him on progress with construction of the power station and to ask again for clearance. “I would be very much grateful if necessary instructions are given to the Hon Minister of Environment and Forests to expedite necessary forest clearances at the earliest.”

Ramesh refused to bend. In a letter dated 8 July 2011, he wrote that he was unable to agree to clearance for the project and was particularly concerned that the coal block lay in the catchment area of the Rihand reservoir. Instead, he suggested that the power plants be supplied by the Sohagpur coalfield.

In the letter, Ramesh said that he had taken into consideration that the companies had already invested about £360m in the power plants and that the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh had appealed to him twice to permit it on the grounds that it would boost economic activity in the state. But he complained that the investment had taken place without clearance and that “fait accompli has become far too common in forest and environmental clearances”.

Shortly afterwards, he was switched to the ministry of rural development. A year later, his decision was reversed and in-principle approval was granted. In February this year, the project was given the green light. Even then, the decision came with conditions, among them the need for a resolution from the representatives of those living in the area – the gram sabha – supporting the project.

But the resolution, passed on 6 March 2013, is hotly contested. It contains the signatures of 1,125 people, although local campaigners say there were only 184 people present at the meeting. Greenpeace claims nine of the “signatories” are dead and has produced death certificates for two of those named. Several people have come forward to insist their signatures were forged. Among them is Kripanath Yadav, 36, of Amelia village. .

“Mahan forest is my provider, protector and God,” he said. “I was born in the forest and I am aware that our constitution bestows on us rights on our forest.

“My signature along with several others including some people who are dead were forged during a gram sabha which was held to take people’s consent on Essar’s coalmine. “We don’t want the mine, the jobs or the compensation that Essar tries to lure us with.” Officials have promised a fresh vote in the next month.

Last month the former coal secretary PC Parakh was questioned for two days by detectives about a number of allocations, including the Mahan block, but no charges have yet been filed.

Priya Pillai, senior campaigner with Greenpeace India, accused the company of wanting to press ahead at any cost. “There’s a lot at stake for the company, therefore it seems they want to build their mine even if it means the law of the land is bypassed,” said Pillai.

It is not just environmental issues that have dogged Essar of late. The company’s decision to delist from the London Stock Exchange and take itself private upset institutional shareholders, which included Standard Life, Scottish Widows and at least two UK local authorities. Many investors were angered by a deal that they argued undervalued the company and left them millions of pounds out of pocket. The company share price stood at 420p when it initially floated in 2010 but the minority shareholders were offered just 70p when it delisted in May.

But Ramakant Tiwari, CEO of Mahan Coal, said the companies had been waiting since 2006 for permission, had invested heavily in the project and had stuck to the letter of the law.

“In such a scenario, it was but natural for both companies to represent their case before the government.”

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Filed under Commodification of Life, Forests and Climate Change, Mining

KPFK EarthWatch: D. Steele and RAMPS

On this week’s “Earth Watch,” our guest is D. Steele of Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival (RAMPS) based in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. We discuss challenging the coal industry, strip mining and divergent issues in Appalachia.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/sojournertruthradio/sojournertruthradio-6-26-14-2

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK radio for a weekly Earth Minute and Earth Watch interview.

 

 

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People’s tribunal seeks to counter Canadian pro-mining spin

By Aaron Cain, June 26, 2014. Source: Upside Down World

Photo from Upside Down World

Photo from Upside Down World

Guilty of human rights abuses. That was the verdict for Canadian mining companies, after two days of in-depth testimony presented in Montreal, Quebec, to a jury of eight experts from around the world.

The Montreal session of The Permanent People’s Tribunal, held from May 30 to June 1, continued a long history of civil society tribunals that started in Italy in 1979. The mandate of the sessions is to examine situations where “legal systems are unable to guarantee universal and effective respect for human rights.” This particular Tribunal will span two years, with the Latin America session being the first of its regional focuses. The session heard activist testimony from Chile, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador and Mexico as well as from Canadian civil society groups.

So why Montreal?

Canada is home to over 75% of all registered mining companies and in recent years there has been a concerted push by industry and government to further entrench Canadian mining operations at home and globally. The tribunal helped challenge the PR spin of these companies, and also highlighted the Canadian government’s role in supporting them financially, judicially and politically. Continue reading

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Peru: prison for regional leader who opposed mine

June 22, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo from peruviantimes.com

Photo from peruviantimes.com

 

Gregorio Santos, regional president of Cajamarca in northern Peru, was ordered to turn himself in for “preventative” imprisonment by a local anti-corruption prosecutor on June 17. The prosecutor, Walter Delgado, said Santos is under investigation by Peru’s Public Ministry for “illicit association” and bribery, although no details were provided. (La Republica, June 17) The left-wing Santos has been an outspoken opponent of the US-backed Conga mining project in Cajamarca. With Santos’ support, the Conga site has for months been occupied by peasant protesters who oppose the mine project. A major mobilization was held at the site on June 5, to commemorate World Environment Day. (Celedín Libre, June 7) Continue reading

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Guatemalans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for 2013 shooting

June 18, 2014. Source: Canadian Centre for International Justice and CALAS

Photo from CCIJ, Guatemalan victims, 1 Guatemalan lawyer, 2 Canadian lawyers

Photo from CCIJ,
Guatemalan victims, 1 Guatemalan lawyer, 2 Canadian lawyers

Seven Guatemalan men filed a civil lawsuit today in a Vancouver court against Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources Inc. for injuries they suffered last year when Tahoe’s security personnel opened fire on them at close range. The men, residents of San Rafael Las Flores, where the company’s Escobal mine is located, allege that Tahoe is legally responsible for the violence inflicted on them as they peacefully protested against the mine.

The claimants are supported in Canada by a legal team comprised of Vancouver law firm Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ). In Guatemala, they are represented by the Guatemalan Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS). Continue reading

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Venezuela: Amazon indigenous protest mining law

June 21, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

venezuela

Meeting June 2 in Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas state, Venezuela’s Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of Amazonas (COIAM) issued a statement protesting President Nicolás Maduro’s Decree No. 841 of March 20, which creates a commission to oversee bringing illegal gold-miners in the rainforest region under government control. The program falls under the Second Socialist Plan for the Nation, charting development objectives from 2013 through 2019, with an emphasis on the “Orinico Mineral Arc.” But the mining has caused grave ecological, cultural and health impacts on the Yanomami and other indigenous peoples of the area. COIAM is demanding a moratorium on all mineral activity in the Guayana administraive region, which covers the southern Orinoco basin in Amazonas and the adjacent states of Bolívar and Delta Amacuro. (See map.) (Sociedad Homo et Natura, June 9; COIAM, June 2; Survival International, Nov. 7, 2013) Continue reading

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New Zealand may kick start race to mine the ocean floor

By Sonali Paul and Gyles Beckford, June 15, 2014. Source: Reuters

 

Photo from http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/04fire/logs/hirez/champagne_vent_hirez.jpg

Photo from http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/04fire/logs/hirez/champagne_vent_hirez.jpg

New Zealand decides this week whether to approve an underwater iron-ore operation that would likely become the world’s first commercial metals mine at the bottom of the sea.

A green light to allow New Zealand’s Trans Tasman Resources Ltd to start iron-ore dredging off the country’s west coast will encourage others looking to mine copper, cobalt, manganese and other metals deeper on the ocean floor but worried about regulatory hurdles.

Along the Pacific Rim of Fire, as deep as 6,000 metres underwater, volcano crusts, “black smoker” chimneys and vast beds of manganese nodules hold promise for economic powers like China and Japan as well as many poor island states busy pegging stakes on the ocean floor.

“A lot of people are watching the Trans Tasman Resources outcome,” said Michael Johnston, chief executive of Nautilus Minerals, which is working on a deep-sea project off Papua New Guinea and is also in talks with New Zealand.

Other countries in the Pacific looking at underwater mining include Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, which have all issued exploration licenses. Cook Islands in the South Pacific plans to put seabed exploration licenses up for bids later this year. Continue reading

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Gold mining in Guyana: Is this what the Low Carbon Development Strategy looks like?

June 6, 2014. Source: Redd-Monitor

Photo from guyanatimesinternational.com

Photo from guyanatimesinternational.com

Gold mining in Guyana is booming. It’s the country’s biggest export. Last year Guyana exported gold worth US$1 billion. But government is failing to address the serious environmental and social impacts caused by gold mining.

Much of the mining is currently small-scale. A 2007 report by Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Programme found that the government had failed to regulate wildcat miners and failed to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Gold mining had polluted rivers with mercury, increased malaria and caused deforestation.

Bonnie Docherty of Harvard’s Human Rights Programme said,

“Medium- and small-scale gold mining as currently practised and regulated inflict severe environmental, health, and social damage on the areas and people near mining operations. Our observations confirmed that the areas around mines resemble a moonscape of barren, mounded sand and mud. Since small-scale miners typically wash the topsoil away in order to get to the gold-bearing clayey soil underneath, the sites of former mines are quite infertile and incapable of supporting regenerated rainforest.”

Continue reading

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