A NEW STATUTORY & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR RESPONSIBLE SULFIDE MINING: SHOULD THIS MINE BE BUILT?

In a work commissioned to guide Maine’s mining policy Dr. David Chambers, a recognized leader in building international  policy for responsible mining, has pointed to a fatal flaw in  the fabric of sulfide mining oversight in the U.S.: no one has specific statutory authority to ask and answer the question “should this mine be built”

 
As geophysicist Chambers puts it so insightfully  from 35 years of work at sulfide mines all over the U.S.:
 

“In many regulatory jurisdictions in the US today there could still be a risk of a catastrophic event if conservative design or operating procedures are not followed, or if a natural disaster, for example a flood or earthquake, or another ‘act of God’ might occur. Regulatory agencies themselves have a limited range of authorities, and are often restricted from requiring any action of a permittee that is not explicitly authorized in statute or regulation. Another limitation of the regulatory system is that there is no entity that has either the responsibility or authority to address the question of “should this mine be built” in the overall context of the economic, social, and environmental benefits and impacts of the mine. Instead, the surrogates for this debate take place at various regulatory hearings, in the editorial columns of local and regional newspapers, at corporate annual shareholder meetings, on websites, and most relevant of all in the courts, where the issues argued are often endangered species, water and air quality, or the adequacy of an environmental impact statement – when the real issue is “should this mine be built.”

Go/No-Go criteria might be viewed as an intermediate step in addressing the fundamental issue of should this mine be built”.The Go/No-Go criteria evaluation process{ employed as corporate policy by Rio Tinto} is comparing potential economic benefits against potential impacts. This is in contrast to the regulatory approach, which is that a permittee must show that they meet criteria (a), (b), (c), (d), etc. If they can show the regulator that they meet these criteria, then the regulator must issue a permit. The Go/No-Go criteria process {housed in public policy would drive} to a yes/no resolution to the mine proposal.”

In this important new policy work Bowker Associates asked Dr Chambers to speak in his own voice, from his own experience and insight to considering a technical, scientific , best practices founded “Go/NO-GO” policy framework aimed at performance criteria for  key mine development elements where  poor pre planning and engineering are known to have resulted in  catastrophic environmental loss.  Rio Tinto is already using this approach to guide all investment decisions:
 
 

They were encouraged to do so by their investors and underwriters who recognized that environmental compliance is a significant cost that must be factored into all development decisions..   What Dr. Chambers has offered for our consideration is a “public  policy”approach  aimed at insuring that permits are not issued for any mine and development plans that cannot attain effective prevention and control of contaminants.

 
While at this stage of development the paper is more a starting place for discussion on how to build this approach into law and policy,  it seems to offer a much more rational, strategically effective and efficient  approach to natural resource protection in sulfide mining policy with a more predictable path for both regulators and developers.
 
An important modern case in point  is the  Polymet’s Northmet project in Minnesota where due to fatal flaws in the structure of their mining statute & regulations, they will be forced, politically, to issue a permit even though the Northmet will unavoidably require active treatment into pepetuity, contrary to Minnosotas stated permitting criteria.  So much money has been spent analyzing the Polymet that even though the final answer was “This mine should not be built” it most likely will be.  Policy gaps create a political squeeze.
 
This new Truth In Mining report  explains the dilemma of  both having and enforcing the correct perpetual policy..no active treatment after clsoure….. without a foundation of technical/scientific/best practices “NO-GO” permitting standards.  The Polymet  shows  us that the right perpetual treatment policy alone does not drive soon enough or with enough precision to preventing the permitting of mines that cannot effectively control contamination without  costly reliance on active treatment systems into perpetuity.
 
 
This important new paper by Dr. Chamber’s on “Go/No- Go” Policy  is  possibly the answer to the Polymet/Northmet  dilemma.
 
At its heart what Rio Tintos Environmental Risk Assessment says, and what Dr. Chambers new  paper is  basically saying,  is that what is allowed and what is actually done from the very beginning  is what determines whether a mine closure with no active treatment is possible.  If we issue permits on the basis of these technical/scientifically based “GO/NO- GO” criteria all mines issued permits wil be able to attain a naturally self sustaining closure not relying on active treatment.( more on that soon but options include targeting smaller parts of a deposit with a higher grade and a smaller over all foot print and  removing all ore for off site processing .  Both were done at the  much touted Flambeau which overall had a much much lower risk profile than our Bald Mountain.
 
In other words, closure is more than what you do with the stuff you have left over at the end of mining when the deposit is exhausted or market prices don’t warrant a continuance.  It is about , as Dr. Chambers said “should this mine be built”.
 
We know, and there is no debate,  that a very high percentage of sulfide mines cannot and should not be built. They are beyond  any known combination of  technology & engineering for effective contaminant control. What Dr. Chambers new work points to is a clearer way of separating the wheat  from the chaff..of not issuing permits to mines that are beyod any known combination of technology and engineering.
 
This is a major and critically important advance over the poison pill, catch 22 of the Wiscosin “Prove It” statute.
 
In support of environmental advocacy for repsonble mining I will be bulding a resource directory at wordpress on peprpetual treatment policy and on other foundations from which we can all further explore this major course correction in oversight of sulfide mining Dr. Chambers new work is poiningt to.
 
Would welcome your thoughts comments and shares of other work  that lays important foundations for sulfide mining
 
 
 
Lindsay Newland Bowker, Environmental Risk Manager, CPCU ARM
Director, Bowker Associates, Science & Research In The Public Interest
lindsaynewlandbowker@gmail.com
 
Stonington Maine January 5, 2014
 
 
January 24, 2014  This excellent Minn Post article on the Northmet, the squeeze between science and politics,  highights the elephant in the room on responsible mining.  Companies lie and get away with it.http://www.minnpost.com/author/ca-arneson.  Kim Lapakko is one of the finest mining scientists in the world but on this he is not free to speak as the scientists he is, perhaps.  On official business perhaps he has to speak as an “employee”.  That troubles me as a risk manager.  That even with one of the finest mining experts on staff, someone all look to and respect, politicis does not allow Dr. Lapakkos expertise to enter decision making on the Northmet. Politics will allow a globally resected expert on the state’s own team to be second guessed by a mining company and mining interests.
 
February 2, 2014  Here is another excellent article on the “squeeze” at the Northmet forwarded by Houston Kempton, a ledaern responsible mining policy and a leading advocate for not issuing permits to mines that will be indeibitely reliant on active water treatment
 
 
This article, without the authors apparent awareness of the fact, is pointing to the “science for sale” fuzzy science” that is finding its way into EIS statements and mine applications.

February 7, 2014

This wonderful E-Book By Robertson & Shaw s what I am suggesting should be the framework for public policy as well.

http://www.infomine.com/library/publications/docs/e-book%2002%20mine%20closure.pdf

In this risk/solution driven process of mine development a mine & closure plan are indivisible. A mine plan that can satisfy all business and environmental criteria that doesn’t have a workable closure is a no go. The concept “mine and closure plan” has to be revised until there is a solution that is both workable in operation and for which there is also a workable closure. Also importantly, Robertson & Shaw stress that it is not just the inherent risk of the mine materials that need to be “put to rest” at closure that determine whether the closure plan is attainable but how these materials are handled on site during operations that determines the success of the closure plan.

In other words, a sound closure plan on paper only becomes a sound closure plan in reality trough a rigorous program of constant technical monitoring and reassessment throughout operations. So protection of the public interest requires that a statutory and regulatory framework for responsible.sustainable mining must provide for periodic technical audits and mandated reassessments over the life of the mine to insure that the closure objective
is still attainable.

Implicit in this approach and not spoke by Robertson & Shaw who are not addressing the “public side of mining risk management, is that if that monitoring should indicate a likelihood of non attainment of the closure plan ( through errors or just through actualities that don’t match predictions) the public authority has to have control to force a shut down, a midstream “NO-GO” . more on that later..it is not presently an element on the GO No Go .

.
 
 

February 9, 2014 Several of the “No-GO” elements in Dr. Chamber revolutionary approach to the permitting of sulfide mines pertain to “tailing impoundments”. This paper provides an in depth look at the science and analysis underlying the impoundment related “no go” criteria. (Long Term Risks of Tailings Dam Failure, Chambers & Higman)

http://www.csp2.org/files/reports/Long%20Term%20Risks%20of%20Tailings%20Dam%20Failure%20-%20Chambers%20%26%20Higman%20Oct11-2.pdf

Critically this article points to the gap in regulatory standards for mining impoundments. The idea of the GO-NO framework in policy is that best science best knowledge design & performance criteria would be embodied in regulation for each criteria.

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About lindsaynewlandbowker

Bowker Associates, Science & Research In The Public Interest, is an independent non profit providing self initiated pro bono analysis on key issues with a potential for massive adverse environmental impact . Bowker Associates has been an internationally recognized and cited voice in analysis of the Samarco failure, its consequence, and the possibilties for recovery. In 2015 Bowker Associates collaborated with globally respected geophysicist David M. Chambers to recompile global authoritative accounts of significant TSF failures in recorded history and to analyze these data in the context of gloal mining economics 1910-2010 ( Risk, Economics and Public Liability of TSF Failures, Bowker/Chambers July 2015) In 2014 Bowker Associates commissioned globally respected geophysicist and hydrogeologist Dr. David Chambers to undertake two technical works: (1) development of technical go no go criteria for vetting mine applications tp://lindsaynewlandbowker.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/a-new-statutory-regulatory-framework-for-responble-sulfide-mining-should-this-mine-be-built/ and (2) a case study of Maine's Bald Mountain, an un mined low grade high risk VMS deposit demonstrating the efficacy and accuracy of two risk assessment tools in vetting mine proposals https://lindsaynewlandbowker.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/mountain-x-would-you-issue-a-permit-to-this-mine/ In Maine, Bowker Associates has deeply engaged and been a public voice in the Searsport DCP LPG Tank, The Cianbro proposal for a Private East West Toll Road, JD Irvings rolling pipeline of Bakken crude to its plant in St. John and review of Phase II plans at The Callahan Superfund site in Brooksville, Maine, and Maine's revisitation of mining in statute and regulation... Our only “client”: is always “the pubic interest”. Our model is to focus on only one or two issues at a time so that we have a substantive command of the relevant field as our foundation for ongoing engagement. Our core work is in envirommental risk management, science and technology as well as bringing any available “best practices” models to the fore. The legal and regulatory history/best models are also a major thrust of our work in building and evaluating public policy. Director/Principal Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM is a recognized expert in Environmental Risk Management., Heavy Construction Risk Management and Marine and Transit Risks and has more than 3 decades of engagement in buiding public policy. Appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to New York State Banking Board (served 1986-1996); President New York Chapter Chartered Property and Casualty Insurers; Environmental Committee, Risk and Insurance Management Society; Director, Convenor/Co-Chair Bermuda Market Briefing "From Captive to Cats" Hamilton Bermuda. Published Articles of Significance The Risk Economics and Public Liability of Tailings Facility Failures, co-authored with David M. Chambers, July 2015 Beyond. Polarization: Superfund Reform in Perspective, Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control (Jan. 24, 1997). Lead Hazards and Abatement Technologies in Construction: A Risk Management Approach CPCU Journal 1997 Employee Leasing: Liability in Limbo Risk Management June 1 1997 Environmental Audit Privilege and the Public interest Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control, April 1997 Asbestos:Holes In Abatement Policies Need To Be Plugged, Lloyd’s Environmental Risk International, May 1993 Editor Published Letters Evironmental Risk Management Beware of Facile Policies Like Fetal Protection Business Insurance 1995(?) High Court Review May Increase Sale of Bank Annuities Business Insurances August 8, 1995 Professional Profiles Protecting the Big Apple’s Core Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Control December 1996 Major Career Highlights First rigorous analysis showing Relationship Between declining ore grades and TSF Failures of increasing consequence ( July 2015) FIrst Documentation that Gentrification Has Same Impacts as Unassisted Displacement from Urban Renewal Sites Direted Court Ordered EIS of FHA Mortgage Scandal Created Nation's First Homeownership Program for Low Income People (SHIP) Created Earliest Geographic Information Systems Using Defense Technology Developed By IBM Designed and Conducted Parallel Census Count to Show Systematic undercount in minority neighborhoods Documented Bias in ISO Territory Rating Plans for Private Passenger Auto Insurance Using ISO's own Rating Techniques Demonstrated Inherent Bias in Mortgage Policies of Banks With Inner City Branches Demonstrated that NY Telephones Plan for Area Code Split To accommodate anticipated cell phone demand was not efficient and would exhaust in 5 years ( which it did) Undertook First Systematic Evaluation of Child Protective Services Caseload Using Multi Variate Analyic Techniques Developed Child Protective Caseload Management and Tracking System (CANTS) and directed implementation in 4 client states including Illinois, Florida and New York Created and Ran Office of Risk Management for NYC DEP the Nations largest Water & Sewer Authority . Designed, Created and Administered Nation's First Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP)for High Risk Tunneling Education Masters NYU Graduate School of Public Administration BSC New School For Social Research Maine Public Schools Deering High School
This entry was posted in Bald Mountain Aroostook Maine, Bowker Associates, Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest, Center For Science In Public Participation, David Chambers, Environmental Risk Management, GO NO-GO Technical Framework, Go NO-GO Zones, Lindsay Newland Bowker, Maine Mining Regulations, Maine Mining Statute, massive sulfide risk management, Metallic Mining, Mining Regulation, Mt. Polley, Perpetual Treatment Policy, politics of mining, Tailings Impoundments, volcanogenic massive sulfide and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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