You may be one of the millions of people who have seen Finding Dory.
In the movie, the spunky Dory is looking for her home. But what if that home is buried in toxic mine waste?
This is a real threat posed to the real-life Dories that swim in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
Each year, mining companies operating throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific dump millions of tons of mine waste into oceans and rivers. Known by the industry as “tailings,” this muddy sludge is created during processing, when the desired mineral, such as gold, is chemically separated from the extracted ore.
Tailings consist of:
- Crushed rock
- Small quantities of metals
- Naturally occurring elements that are toxic when exposed to air, such as arsenic, mercury, sulfur and cadmium
- Additives used in processing, such as petroleum byproducts, sulfuric acid and cyanide
Usually, tailings are stored in facilities on land, in the form of a dammed pond or, less frequently but more responsibly, dewatered and stored in dry stacks.
But in a few cases, companies skip even the most basic of waste management processes, and dump this toxic waste into water bodies.
Once dumped, tailings kill fish, smother marine ecosystems and threaten the livelihoods of many coastal communities. (Click here for an infographic providing more information about this devastating problem.)
Though this practice has rightfully been phased out in most regions, some companies, including some of the world’s largest such as US miners Newmont and Freeport McMoRan, continue to dump mine wastes into water in the region where the blue tang lives.
This pollution can harm the coastal communities that live near the dumping sites as well:
The mine, owned by Freeport McMoran and the Indonesian government, is notorious for its long record of environmental damage and human rights violations in Indonesia. It dumps over 80 million tonnes of tailings per year into the the Otomina and Ajkwa rivers, to wetland estuaries, and out to the Arafura Sea. Company reports have revealed that the rivers and wetlands are unsuitable for aquatic life because of the tailings dumping. The tailings have also buried over 166 square kilometers of formerly productive forest and wetlands.
Dumping from Barrick Gold’s mine in Papua New Guinea has contributed to increased sedimentation, changes in flow and depth in the rivers and contaminated them with large quantities of arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals.Fish populations downstream of the mine are less plentiful than before and people in the area fear the mine is causing contamination of fish and livestock. In 2009, The Norwegian Pension Fund removed Barrick from its investment portfolio because of the use of river dumping at Porgera.
In 2013, more than a thousand residents stormed the Martabe mine complex to protest.
the construction of a pipeline which would drain wastewater from the mine into the Batang Toru river. Its owners at the time, G Resources, halted their operations a few months prior due to similar unrest over the pipeline. Since that time, the mine has changed ownership to a group of Indonesian, Australian and American investors.
Dory’s home should be teeming with aquatic life, not cyanide-laced pollution. We ask you to help protect the home of the real-life Dories by showing your support for an an end to aqueous tailings dumping.