FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Stonington Maine November 1, 2017
CONTACT: Lindsay Newland Bowker, LNBowker@BowkerAssociates.org +1 207 367 5145
TAGS: UNEP Tailings Management Report; Reform Of Legal Framework for Tailings Facilities; Tailings Conference 2017; 2nd Anniversary Samarco TSF Failure; Mt Polley TSF Failure Management & Closures; Mining Watch Canada; London Mining Network; Amnesty International;Tailings Risk Management
Last week the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released its call for reforms in the legal framework for oversight of tailings facilities. The report was endorsed by an international coalition of NGO’s who have been active for many years providing competent and thorough documentation on local public consequence from many aspects of mining activities. The endorsing coalition included Mining Watch Canada, The London Mining Network and Amnesty International. The report comes after two years of non-governmental response to the full program of reform recommended by the Mt. Polley expert panel. Here at this forum are several posts chronicling in some detail the response avoidance initiatives of the Mining Association of Canada ( MAC) the International Council on Mining & Metals ( ICMM) and even the British Columbia government itself who sought the recommendations when it commissioned the Mt Polley panel.
The catastrophic failures phenomenon is world wide as illustrated in the spectacular graphic superimposing failures by severity on a map of the world. As as we document in our latest research in partnership with Dave Chambers, scale of impact of catastrophic failures has reached all new magnitude and the highest frequency of occurrence ever. No government in the world has enacted any meaningful reforms either.
Bowker Associates had no part in developing the UNEP report or writing its promotion though our data base ( Bowker Chambers TSF Failures 1915-2017 was the source of reported data and charts. We are very glad of, and wholly endorse this united global expression of refusal to accept the program of non reform held fast by MAC, ICMM and all nations but Australia who offer many excellent models all should look to.
This step of united global expression of the public interest has claimed global ownership of the narrative on public interest consequence, including human rights and social consequence, especially to the lands and communities of indigenous peoples. The coalition is at work continually in a living collaboration but this is the first formal public expression Of widely shared views and advocacy. And of course UNEP is a natural global umbrella for that united advocacy.
Neither the mining industry, its lobbies MAC and ICMM nor any government with an active resource policy in support of mining can debate or duck the four main UNEP calls for action by governments issuing permits: (1) call for an official public policy of loss prevention with a goal of zero failures ;( 2) the Mt Polley core mandate of safety above economics and cost as a foundation stone of all public policy; (3) the obligation of each government issuing permits to provide a complete available on demand public data base on all tailings facilities under their jurisdiction; (4) the obligation to provide checks and balances protective of the public interest through independent expert review of all aspects of facility design management oversight and closure especially with a bearing on public liability and public consequence.
There is great and reasonable frustration in the public interest sector globally that ICMM, and MAC and governments like BC Ministry of Mines have taken a watered down chinese menu approach to the wisdom of the Mt Polley Panel recommendations . The core recommendations cited above are based on the Mt Polley expert panel reccommendations. As Dave Chambers & I warn in our industry peer reviewed new paper just published in Environments
, the continued avoidance of a full commitment to all the Mt Polley recommendations as policy in all legal frameworks will just spawn a wider tide of reactive populist anti mining legislation as was just brought into existence by a state wide coalition of NGO’s here in Maine( LD820).
Mining Watch Canada, who have been the gold standard for impeccably good research as the foundation for their advocacy, has already endorsed the same reactive populist call as Maine for upfront security in the amount of a worst case scenario That is not a worthy advocacy but it reflects popular thinking and is what the mining industry will continue to invite if it doesn’t heed the call for every nation to reframe its law from scratch embracing the 4 foundation stones advocated by UNEP and the full menu of Mt Polley recommendations, not just for new projects but in application to all existing TSF’s and ATDS( Alternative Tailings Deposition, such as in pit or underground workings deposition, use of caves or natural underground openings, use of marine environments ( lakes, rivers, streams, bays and ocean)).
The Mt Polley expert panel did not address human rights and social impacts reforms or the need for miner funded immediate mobilization for relief , assistance and compensation in the wake of catastrophic failure because they were working under a framework that contractually focused their scope. UNEP is the first government entity to demand that all legal frameworks for mining include creation of a global disaster relief fund, presumably miner funded and contributions mandated by law in all permits.
This is UNEP’s central mandate all over the world and they were on the ground and present post Samarco as a voice of truth against the manufactured narrative in the wake of the Samarco man made disaster in Brazil. I had advocated here in Maine that companies on government divestment lists and on the World Banks “black list” be specifically disallowed as applicants or having any control or directive role in any aspect of mine operations. Had I been involved in the preparation of this report I would have recommended that inclusion.
Bowker Associates endorses a more complete legal framework in all permitting regulations addressing human rights , including locally expressed standards of community and environmental security and requiring a fair level of contribution via the local government to emergency response for all high hazard facilities. Spill response laws are not adequately conceived or framed to respond to catastrophic tailings facility failures.
Each of the main endorsing NGOS ( London Mining Network, Mining Watch Canada and Amnesty International) have done work of impeccable quality in documenting mine specific public interest consequences of mining practice and Bowker Associates fully embraces their consensus on these mandates of reform in all legal frameworks for mining.
It would move the conversation and the continuing informed mapping of the public interest if MAC and ICMM immediately concede and endorse these five main recommendations in advance of, and at , Tailings 2017, Alberta November 5-8.
Jack Caldwell has updated his planned presentation in recognition of the UNEP, including its global map of failures post Mt Polley and in recognition of our latest paper.
Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM Environmental Risk Manager
Science & Research In The Public Interest
15 Cove Meadow Rd.
Stonington, Maine 04681