For the mining industry, technological advances have made the world’s oceans the new frontier. Both companies and governments have started exploration and even tout deep-sea mining as a safer alternative to the problems caused by mineral extraction. But they do so in the absence of any scientific consensus on the long-term impacts of deep-sea mining.
It's remarkable to think about the things irresponsible mining companies get away with -- particularly in isolated and developing parts of the world. For example, mining companies regularly dump toxic mine waste directly into the world's rivers, lakes and oceans – killing wildlife, contaminating drinking water and destroying livelihoods in the process. But recently, the tiny Pacific Island nation of Papua New Guinea, said: enough is enough. PNG's National Court ordered the huge Ok Tedi mine, formerly run by BHP Billiton, to stop dumping mine waste into the river.
In our Troubled Waters report, we detailed the egregious but routine practice of mining companies dumping mine waste in rivers, lakes and other water bodies, particularly in the developing world. Mining companies are dumping more than 180 million tonnes of hazardous mine waste each year into rivers, lakes, and oceans worldwide, threatening vital bodies of water with toxic heavy metals and other chemicals poisonous to humans and wildlife.
Every year in Papua New Guinea, South African mining company Durban Roodepoort Deep Ltd (DRD Gold) dumps more than 160,000 tons of contaminated mine waste directly into the Auga-Angabanga river system.
Even worse, DRD Gold transports everything to and from the Tolukuma Gold Mine (TGM) by helicopter, including cyanide which is used for ore extraction. This risky transportation system failed in 2000 when one ton of cyanide was dropped from a helicopter over the Yaloge River Valley on the way to the mine. Community members attribute up to six deaths to the cyanide spill.
Yesterday, communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) received big news from the US Appeals Court. The court released a decision that will allow PNG communities to sue mining giant Rio Tinto for genocide and war crimes becasue of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to reverse a lower courts dismissal, that was in favor of Rio Tinto.
This development comes only months after the company had publicly expressed intent to reopen the controversial mine.