Natural resources: mining

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Ecological Impact of MiningTechnology, Minerals and War in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Global perspectives on mining to be explored at World Mining Congress 2013 in Montreal
CNW Telbec/ – The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) is proud to host the 23rd World Mining Congress 2013 (WMC) from August 11 to 14, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. WMC will host an estimated 1,200 mining experts from industry, academia and government representing more than 60 countries. Over the course of the three days, 400 renowned mining researchers, academics and scientists from around the globe are scheduled to present peer-reviewed papers during an intricate 14-track program.

Greenland’s Rare Earths Gold Rush

Global power brokers once dismissed Greenland as a white blot on the world map. No longer: Investors from Australia to Canada to China are flocking to the island in the next great contest for mineral riches.
(Foreign AffairsKuannersuit has long been of interest to geologists. It is filled with pretty stones such as the pink tugtupite (“reindeer blood” in Greenlandic) and is home to more than 200 rare minerals, 15 of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. But these days, all eyes are on the region’s so-called rare earth elements — raw materials essential to technology products such as cell phones, wind turbines, and hybrid cars. For years, China has held a near monopoly on the global supply, controlling an 85 percent share. (That figure is down from a high of 95 percent a year ago, thanks to U.S. and Australian efforts to start mining their own rare earths.) Kuannersuit contains as much as 10 million tons of such metals and could potentially produce 40,000 tons a year. In total, Greenland could potentially produce upward of 20 to 25 percent of the world’s supply.
7 August
Mining the Gobi: The Battle for Mongolia’s Resources
(Spiegel) The construction of a huge mine in the middle of the Gobi Desert was supposed to catapult Mongolia toward rapid economic growth. But an ongoing conflict over profits from the gold and copper mined there threatens to capsize the young democracy.
Mongolia is over four times the size of Germany, with nearly 3 million inhabitants and a GDP of $10 billion (€7.5 billion) in 2012.
British-Australian mining corporation Rio Tinto employs 71,000 people in more than 40 countries and is worth about $60 billion.
These two unequal partners — a poor, potentially rich nation and the second largest mining corporation in the world — have joined together to mine one of the globe’s largest deposits of copper and gold. But will they be capable of distributing this wealth fairly?
6 August
Australian mining boom turns to bust
10-year run based on Chinese demand now cooling
(CBC) Endowed with vast mineral resources, Australia has been the envy of the Western world for avoiding recession during the global financial crisis while other wealthy countries drowned in debt. But the country now faces a potentially painful transition as it weans itself off a heavy reliance on its two biggest exports, coal and iron ore.
Australia’s dilemma underscores that China’s long run of supercharged growth has given it enough weight in the world economy to create not only winners, but losers too when its own fortunes change.
28 April
UK ministers consider offering communities fracking sweeteners
(Fiancial Times) The government is proposing to bribe communities with cheaper energy bills in exchange for dropping opposition to local fracking projects as part of plans to push ahead with shale-gas extraction.
Several options to cajole rural England to accept the contentious drilling schemes are being discussed as ministers prepare to announce that the UK’s shale-gas reserves are much larger than previously estimated.
27 April
Greeks Fight Canadian Gold-Diggers
(IPS) – Any sense of tranquility that hangs around the mountain of Skouries in northern Greece, 80 km east of Greece’s second largest city Thessaloniki, is a façade. Home to some of the oldest forests in Greece, the pristine region is now a battleground, as the local population takes on the Canadian mining giant Eldorado Gold Corporation and its local subsidiary, Hellas Gold.
… A huge majority of this community of 40,000 opposes the extractive project, which aims to mine approximately 12 billion dollars worth of copper, gold, silver, zinc and lead that have been slumbering untouched under this mountain.
26 April
Dirty Gold: Crisis Has Europe Clamoring to Mine
(Spiegel) Amid the enduring economic crisis, European governments are looking for new ways to fill empty coffers, and once unappealing mining projects are becoming far more attractive. One massive strip-mining project in Romania has divided the country.
As the sovereign debt crisis continues to grip the Continent, governments have become increasingly responsive to the mining companies’ proposals to tap gold reserves. In recent years, environmental regulations, local opposition and high costs have mostly kept foreign mining companies away. Instead, they have focused on large reserves in the developing world. Recently, though, much of Europe has seen what Theodota Nantsu of the WWF calls “an avalanche of regulation rollback” and an opening of gold reserves previously deemed unacceptable for mining.
22 April
Potential uranium port sparks fears for Barrier Reef
The United Nations’ world heritage advisory body has expressed serious concerns with the Queensland Government’s potential plans to export uranium across the Great Barrier Reef.
(Radio Australia) Queensland Mines Minister Andrew Cripps says once the uranium industry becomes commercially viable, a case would have to be made to have a licensed port off the east coast, and he has not ruled out Townsville.
5 March
Diplomats, foreign ministries abound at mining conference
(Embassy) … numerous foreign ministers, ambassadors, high commissioners, and other government officials … streamed into downtown Toronto this week. While some countries such as China, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, and Argentina had booths set up at the trade show, others like Turkey held sessions to inform Canadians and foreign delegates about mining potential in their countries.
In fact, international delegates have consistently made up about 25 per cent of the attendees during the past few years … But actual numbers have increased. In 2010, it was 5,500, and in 2011 it was 6,928.
“It is the preeminent event in the minerals industry, not only in terms of sheer size, but in relation to the quality of education and networking opportunities,” Mr. Virtue said.
Last year, there were 125 countries represented, which included 63 provincial, territorial, and federal governments. The association is still compiling numbers for this year.
23 February
Xstrata unit wins environmental approval for $5.9 billion Philippine mine
(Planet Ark/WEN) Global miner Xstrata Plc’s $5.9 billion Tampakan mine in the Philippines has been granted an environmental compliance certificate by the government, the company said on Tuesday, removing one of the hurdles delaying work on Southeast Asia’s biggest copper-gold prospect.
The Tampakan project, the Philippines’ single largest foreign direct investment and seen as a bellwether for overseas investors, has been held up by a 2010 ban on open-pit mining imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato because of its harmful effects on the environment.
Governor Arthur Pingoy told Reuters there were no plans to revoke the ban, but the central government’s environmental compliance certificate, or ECC, puts Xstrata a step closer to actual construction of the project if the ban is at all lifted.
15 February
EU’s soft power in Congo toothless on ‘conflict minerals’
The EU has major investments in development, humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and supports global measures to the illicit trade in so-called conflict minerals.
Yet the EU, unlike the United States, has no law to compel corporations to disclose the sources of raw materials bought in Congo to ensure that armed groups were not part of the supply chain.

2012

25 October
Gold now top conflict mineral in Congo: Report
(AP) — Gold is now the primary source of income for armed groups in eastern Congo, and is ending up in jewelry stores across the world, according to a report published Thursday by the Enough Project.
“The essential revenue for armed groups comes from gold today. Of course there are other sources like logging, but gold has become the primary source for groups like the FDLR,” said Fidel Bafilemba, Enough’s researcher in eastern Congo.
Because of the United States’ Dodd-Frank law requiring companies to track the origin of the minerals they use, armed groups have been unable to profit from the exploitation of tin, tungsten and tantalum, and have turned instead to gold, which is easier to smuggle across borders.
13 September
New Mongolian mine is already having an economic impact
Mongolia’s vast Oyu Tolgoi mine, scheduled to open next month, already accounts for about 30% of the nation’s annual economic output. The gold and copper mine, which has been in development for a decade, is a joint venture of the Mongolian government and a Canadian company, Turquoise Hill Resources. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (9/13)
8 September
The Stakes Get Higher in the Fracking Debate
(Oil & Gas investments bulletin) Is there any common ground in the debate over hydraulic fracturing?  It’s a divisive issue, especially in the U.S., where 90%-plus of all global fracking is done now, pitting neighbor against neighbor.
Two weeks ago I wrote about a success story – How a U.S. Oil Refinery Got Saved – in which different stakeholders were able to put aside differences and create a win-win scenario for everyone.
Can the groups on either side of the fracking debate do the same?
For many, the issue is jobs and royalties vs. the environment. I don’t see it that way, though. This multi-billion dollar industry–horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking–has been around for 15 years, but really only seen major growth since 2007—five short years ago.
And as companies test new fracking technology—plug & perf vs. open hole, slickwater vs. oil vs. propane—new things get developed that keep lowering costs and increasing the amount of oil and gas that can get produced. What I mean to say is that technology is changing so fast, the industry can hardly keep up–much less the general public. And the industry is obviously fixated on keeping up with the competition; not explaining things to the public–which, in all likelihood, will all be out of date shortly.
The industry is even developing more environmental ways of fracking. I believe, for example, that in five years all fracking fluid will be food-grade. You (ok, maybe not you, but the oil and gas company reps) will be able to drink the stuff. The public is demanding it. I think it will happen—but not right away.
17 August
Fracking: What is it, and Is it Safe?
(PBS Newshour) In a three-part series that airs on the NewsHour this week, Ray Suarez and producer Merrill Schwerin have taken a sweeping look at the impact of energy production and usage. They’ve covered the switch from coal to natural gas in Colorado and the debate it’s set off between industry groups. They’ve covered a fight by environmentalists to save fragile land in Eastern Utah from drilling. And they’ve brought us the “boomtown” of Williston, North Dakota transformed by the discovery of oil.
In tonight’s piece, Ray looks at the rise of natural gas. One key part of that story is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. To give you the who’s and when’s and what’s of the process, plus all of the debate surrounding it, we’ve compiled this Storify post. (August 2012)
Alec Baldwin: The Truth About Fracking
(HuffPost) Many pro-fracking people posted attacks on [Josh Fox’s documentary film Gasland] and his film, going so far as to state, in no uncertain terms, that his film has been widely and undeniably dismissed for lacking in accurate facts, science and history. I contacted Fox, by email, and asked him to provide me with more information to address the “deniers” who have debunked his assertions.
Josh Fox forwarded to me a detailed response that included the following links…

James Bay Cree ban uranium mining
(RCI net) Uranium mining is a controversial endeavour in Quebec. In the region around Lake Misstassini, preliminary exploration and consultation with the native people living there resulted in the Cree Grand Council recently declaring a permanent ban on uranium mining. This is not the first demonstration of opposition.

2011

23 November
Propane Substitutes For Water In Shale Fracking
(Planet Ark) Many controversies surround hydraulic fracturing of underground shale deposits in the quest for oil and gas, but a small Canadian oilfield services company has pioneered a way around one of them: the use of prodigious amounts of water in the process.
“Fracking” generally involves blasting millions of gallons of water down a shale well to free up oil and natural gas, and then the water needs to be disposed of because it may contain toxic drilling byproducts like heavy metals. GasFrac Energy Services Inc is winning customers, including Chevron Corp, by using a flammable propane gel instead of the water, chemicals and sand typically blasted into rock or tight sand formations to release trapped oil and gas.
31 August
George Monbiot: Shale Fail
It looks as if the UK government is allowing shale gas fracking companies to regulate themselves.
25 August
Geology or geography?
Miners should spread their risks across countries as well as minerals
(The Economist) There are two theories as to how miners should spread their risks. One is that they should diversify by geology. That is, they should dig up lots of different minerals, just in case the price of one of them collapses. A rival theory holds that miners should worry more about geographical diversity than the geological sort.
26 August
New Jersey Issues One-Year Moratorium On Fracking
(Planet Ark) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would have permanently banned the practice, which critics say can pollute drinking water.
“I am placing a one-year moratorium on fracking so that the (Department of Environmental Protection) can further evaluate the potential environmental impacts of this practice in New Jersey as well as evaluate the findings of still outstanding and ongoing federal studies.”
Quebec Woos Japan, China to Invest in $80 Billion Regional Plan
(Bloomberg) Companies from Japan and China, seeking new metal supplies, are considering investing in an $80 billion regional development plan in Canada’s resource-rich Quebec province, said Premier Jean Charest.
Japan’s “investment houses” are in talks about potential investments in rare earths and lithium deposits, as well as in infrastructure, Charest said in an interview yesterday in Tokyo, declining to name the companies.
19 August
China rules the rare earth
The global race to grab a share of rare earth metals in Central Asia has begun.
Welcome to the post-digital world, where foreign policy won’t be dictated by oil and gas needs, but by cobalt, lithium and niobium.
(Al Jazeera) Oil wars? Water wars? Sure – they will continue to define the geopolitics of the early 21st century. But in high-technology terms, nothing compares with the coming mineral wars. And the name of the game is rare earth.
Asia is the land of rare earth – the minerals that allowed the digital revolution to happen, and that are making green technology a reality. China controls no less than 95 per cent of the global production of rare earth.
The key player in this high-stakes game is Baotou Steel Rare Earth (Group) Hi-tech Co., from Inner Mongolia – the world’s largest producer of rare earth elements.
China, Japan, South Korea, in addition to Germany, the US, Russia and France, all in the forefront of new technologies, are deeply involved in the mineral “Great Game”.
Most people in the world would make no connection between Samsung and the Salar de Uyuni – a spectacular salt desert in southern Bolivia. Yet Bolivia happens to hold enormous quantities of lithium.
17 August
A Timeline For Eroding China’s Rare Earth Chokehold
(WSJ) How long can China sustain its near-monopoly on the global supply of rare earth?
For the high-technology companies around the world that use the elements to make magnets, store electricity and produce specialized lasers, there is hardly a bigger question.
a new report — “Critical Rare Earths” by expert Gareth P. Hatch of Illinois-based Technology Metals Research LLC — offers some answers to the pivotal question of when the rest of the world will begin filling the gaping supply and demand gap.
“Within the last few years there has been an explosion in the number of new rare-earth exploration and development projects around the world,” says the report. By last count, Technology Metals was tracking 381 projects outside China and India, under development by 244 companies in 36 countries.
28 July
‘Sea dragon’ ventures 5,000m below sea to find jewels of the deep
China leads the way as discovery of rare-earth metals on floor of the Pacific Ocean triggers race to the bottom
(The Independent) China has boldly gone where few nations have gone before. It has sent a manned submersible vessel to a depth of 5,000 metres below the sea in its attempt to dominate the scientific exploration of the mineral-rich seabed.
24 July
New U.N. Report: U.S. Conflict Minerals Law Having Impact in Congo
The United Nations Group of Experts on Congo issued their latest report this week, highlighting that the Dodd-Frank legislation on conflict minerals is spurring reform in eastern Congo. The U.N. experts group is normally one of the best sources of information on eastern Congo, as they dig into the roots of the conflict and are not afraid to name officials who are helping perpetuate the war. This interim report, which will be followed up by a full investigative report in November, brought out several key issues regarding both eastern Congo and the LRA conflict:
The Dodd-Frank bill is having an impact. U.N. report: “Since its development in 2010, this United States legislation has proved an important catalyst for traceability and certification initiatives and due diligence implementation in the minerals sector regionally and internationally.”
22 July
South Australia bans mining in Arkaroola forever
(miningweekly.com) − South Australia Premier Mike Rann on Friday banned mining in the Arkaroola region, in the state’s far north, where junior Marathon Resources is drilling for uranium.
Rann said that after discussions with Environment Minister Paul Caica and Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis, it was decided to give Arkaroola unprecedented protection, initially under the Mining Act. The state government would then implement new legislation specifically aimed at excluding mining in the area, giving it clear and specific protection.
“This new legislation will fully recognise the unique character of the region. We could have settled for what the Greens wanted, which was simply to ban mining, but I wasn’t satisfied that that would provide enough protection from all forms of incompatible development.
6 July
Analysis: Underwater rare earths likely a pipe dream
(Reuters) – An underwater bonanza of rare earth deposits discovered by Japanese scientists poses little threat to miners already developing major rare earth projects on solid ground.
Companies such as Molycorp, Lynas and Avalon Rare Metals may rest assured that developing the offshore bounty could take decades and cost billions, making it little more than a pipe dream, analysts say.
27 June
Peru revokes licence of Canadian mining firm Bear Creek
(Globe & Mail) The government had given into their demands and agreed to revoke the licence for Canadian mining firm Bear Creek to open its Santa Ana silver mine in the area; as well, it halted all new mining concessions in Puno province for 36 months. The unrest ended with the agreement Saturday, narrowly averting a repeat of a bloody conflict the day before, when police killed at least five demonstrators at the airport.
While the breakthrough agreement stopped further bloodshed, it casts doubts on other resource operations in Peru, a nation that relies heavily on foreign investment and receives about 70 per cent of its GDP from the mining industry.
9 May
U.S. ‘Conflict Minerals’ Law Bad for Continent – Tech Firms
(AllAfrica) The law requires US companies making use of four minerals — tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — to demonstrate to US regulators that they have sought to ensure that the imports are not helping finance rebel groups in the eastern DRC. Congo itself is a significant but not irreplaceable source of these metals, industry analysts say.
But Dodd-Frank applies to imports of the four minerals not only from the DRC but from the nine neighbouring countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The supply chain for these “conflict minerals” is so long and complex that there is at present no way for American tech companies to prove that the materials did not originate in areas under DRC rebel control, said Rick Goss, a spokesman for the US Information Technology Industry Council.
12 April
Shale gas ‘worse than coal’ for climate
The new kid on the energy block, shale gas, may be worse in climate change terms than coal, a study concludes.
(BBC) Drawn from rock through a controversial “fracking” process, some hail the gas as a “stepping stone” to a low-carbon future and a route to energy security.
But US researchers found that shale gas wells leak substantial amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
This makes its climate impact worse than conventional gas, they say – and probably worse than coal as well.
“Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon, and is comparable over 100 years,” they write in a paper to be published shortly in the journal Climatic Change.
2010
10 November
Canada mining firm sued over role in DR Congo conflict
(BBC) Relatives of victims and survivors of a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo have filed a class action suit against the Canadian company Anvil Mining.

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