No Money for Mine Waste

Earthworks’ newest campaign is hitting ocean dumpers where it counts.

This March, Earthworks launched the Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign to demand financial institutions cut ties with companies that dump mine waste into the ocean. Each year mining companies dump 220+ million metric tonnes of mine waste into natural water bodies threatening the health and livelihoods of coastal communities in Indonesia, Norway, Papua New Guinea, and Turkey. That’s roughly equivalent to 55 stadiums filled with mine waste, dumped onto fragile marine life and pristine reefs.

In coordination with 40 organizations across the globe, the Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign zeroed in on proposed projects in Norway and Papua New Guinea where a handful of companies are pushing ocean dumping as a cheap option to deal with mine waste, which industry calls tailings.

It did not take long for Citigroup, our first target, to recognize that ocean waste dumping is dirty, unnecessary and wrong. The global financial firm agreed to amend its policies to ban financing for ocean dumping. Citi will also include dumpers on its watchlist, an internal document used to identify industry outliers and flag them for additional social and environmental review. It’s an exciting early victory and gives us momentum as we push the campaign forward!

Now we are shifting our focus to call on other financial institutions to ditch the dumpers and develop similar policies. Our goal is to see that the practice is phased out once and for all.

In April, we visited Vevring, Norway, a small community located on the edge of the pristine Førdefjord and in close proximity to Nordic Mining’s proposed Engebø mine. If built, it would cut off the top of Engebø Mountain and dump 250 million metric tonnes of waste into the fjord.

Vevring resident, Lars Gunnar Thingnes, explained, “The fjord provides all the fish that we eat – and that’s a lot! The mine dumping would destroy everything. The fish will die, and there won’t be any birds. I think our local community will also die. Nobody can live with such a mess.”

Photos do not do justice to the expansive, breathtaking beauty of this place – a National Salmon Fjord, regularly visited by sea eagles and orcas. Nor do they convey the connection residents have with the fjord, which goes far beyond its beauty to an essential part of who they are. It is an integral part of their family economy and source of pride.

Money talks. So it makes sense that the Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign’s focus is to cut off financing for the Engebø mine and other proposed projects in Norway and Papua New Guinea. Banks and financial institutions need to know that we will not forfeit the future of our oceans so that mining companies and shareholders can make more money today. Visit www.earthworks.org/campaigns/ditch-ocean-dumping  for stories from communities threatened by mine waste dumping, and about the ecosystems and marine life they are fighting to save.

“Sacrificing our fjords to dump mine waste simply does not make sense, but even in Norway, money talks.” – Anne-Line Thingnes Førsund, Community leader from Vevring