A RECONSIDERATION OF THE ‘SOCIAL LICENSE TO OPERATE’ Isn’t It Government’s Job to Provide For safety and Well Being of its People, Lands & Water?

CONTACT: Lindsay Newland Bowker, Executive Director World Mine Tailings Failures


March 5,2020


The Responsible Mining Foundation has just released its 2020 Responsible Mining Index with the survey results , all post Brumadinho, on progress towards “Responsible Mining.”   Post Brumadinho has been a frenzy of supposed awakening and serious commitment to TSF failure prevention.  Even investors are finally awakening and asking about tailings capacity and management instead of just regurgitating whatever miners present in their webinars as a basis for sound investment and investor support.

Across the Board though it is still “failing grade” according to the survey “RMI2020”. The RMI2020 results beg the question: Are we actually gearing up for change, laying the foundations for change or are we in the midst of yet another orchestrated calming of the waters by UNEP and industry cartels. The last big “discernment”, the 2006 UNEP/ICOLD 5 year long response to the failure crisis of the 90’s turned out to  not even list all serious failures let alone offering any road map to change.

The public demand and expectation is unchanged for the past 20 years: that  mineral sector performance  does not presume or accept the inevitability of a local sacrifice zone for the sake of greater public good serving the many as has been an accepted “mining doctrine“ for hundreds of years.  The public gets that a local sacrifice zone is neither inevitable nor acceptable and are demanding “responsible mining”, that, is a permanent guided reconciliation between sustainability and reliable affordable supplies of the minerals the world needs and will continue to need no matter how green or economy gets.

Here is the RMI2020 summary of the “Community Well Being” part of the Responsible Mining Index .

RMI2020 community well being summary.

And here are the RMI2020 survey results by miner, most well below average score, none achieving the possible “best score”

rmi2020 community well being scores by miner

Promises Made to Investors, Regulators & Communities Are Not Promises Kept

RMI2020 recognizes that there are lots of commitments but little performance on  commitments .

The measures on “Community Well Being” do not specifically address or enumerate what  public commitments to investors and communities were made or track whether these have been met or present status. A great deal of assurance directed at investors was made publicly about agreements reached with government and affected communities post Samarco.  No new community has been built as promised.  No affected person known to us is satisfied with what government and the miners actually delivered as help and compensation and resettlement for their lost ancient village.

Bento Rodriguez After the Samarco TSF Failure


Were the 5,000 made homeless in 17 communities , the 1000 who were injured, the loved ones of the 127 killed or the parents of the many never found young children and infants ever compensated by either government or the coal miner?

Stunned Buffalo Creek Residents Looking at Their Village Remains

Buffalo Creek

Who Should State & Structure Public Interest Safeguards?

I map and study the dysfunctions of our global mineral supply system as a public policy wonk continually mapping mining back into precedent for private companies delivering essential public services, e.g. railroads, utilities.  health care, education. Mining is so unique as an enterprise, so deeply affected with a public interest because of our reliance on their product, that there really is no precedent that applies fully or even provides a meaningful comparative model. However in all these other “privatizations” there are clear public interest/public protection provisions and a separate industry/service specific administration with authority to intervene if the public protections are violated.  Not so in mining.

The model we have for “community well being” for the minerals sector of the world economy clearly still, de facto, allows a local sacrifice zone in the community of origin.  And worse, it delegates to miners what should be  the sole realm of government, the safety and health of its citizens, the health of lands and waters to sustain life and provide safe and sufficient local food sources.  Our tradition of “social license to operate” arose specifically out of violence, conflict and organized local opposition to what government had already agreed to. Citizens revolted against the activity itself and the people engaging in the activity; against.the miners and their contractors and there evolved horrific spectacles, as in Bougainville, of government police and military bearing arms against their own citizens, treating protest as not only civil disobedience but a criminal act, seeking  protest leadership  out in their villages  by  helicopter , rounding them  up shooting them on the spot.  Insurers even recognize vehement opposition to government decisions as “ political risk “coverage which IFC requires for all its projects and which has been invoked on far too many of its projects.

If Governments want to use their mineral resources to create taxes, fees, royalties to feed the treasury , they need to provide the circumstances through the legal frameworks for licensing  that both insures miners that they can get on with their work and mining affected communities with the assurance of support and protections that respect and preserve life. It is Governments who put miners and communities in conflict with one another.

Mining is a unique technically complex, high risk endeavor with a greater level of uncertainty than almost any other endeavor we might list as deeply affected with a public interest. The minerals this sector produces are essential to life as we have chosen to live it.  It is Government’s job to license this activity with the provisions for health and safety built in through zoning and “no go zones”, through standards in law which require building to a level dictated by hazard potential regardless of impact on cost, through the preservation of independent technical context in mining to actually implement and oversee these health and safety protections for lands, water, communities, cultural heritage, human life.

Mining is, and must be, de facto a public private partnership.  Each partner should be doing their part.  Negotiating a social license to operate is not mining’s job though as any company it  owes a duty of care to its own workers and duty in law and decency to the surrounding community.

To complete the RMI2020 assessment of mining performance  on “community well being” we would need companion charts on the extent to which the legal framework for mineral extraction and processing have adequate “community well being” standards and are actively assuring attainment of these  standards are met life of mine until safe and permanent closure.

At World Mine Tailings failures we have just initiated a monthly “In Memoriam” for the never acknowledged, never compensated and in many cases cotinuing non remediable damages in the failure affected area. We are now featuring Buffalo Creek, February 26, 1972.  I am pretty sure those 5,000 very poor Appalachian families at Buffalo Creek made homeless through complete neglect by government and the coal company never got their housing replaced or lives  made whole again with any help from government or the company at fault.

In short we need to rebuild from scratch how we handle “high hazard potential” mining plans and we need to include public exposure to life threatening, health impairing leaks and emissions.in “hazard potential” ranking  The gap is in government standards and investor policies.

Thank you for RMI2020 and for this  unflinching message that we have little to cheer or applaud despite all this buzz about renewed commitments to responsible mining.

March 5,2020 Stonington,Maine

For Mike and for Emanueli

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 2017 we partnered with Daveid M. Chambers, a world leader in responsible mining, in our third joint work on the economics of tailings failures. Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. In the Dark Shadow of the Supercycle Tailings Failure Risk & Public Liability Reach All Time Highs. Environments 2017, 4, 75. http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3298/4/4/75 A peer reviewed journal published investigation of the cowboy economics of the supercycle and the resulting escalation on the number and magnitude of catastrophic failures. In 2016 we parnered with Dave Chambers in our 2nd joint work together looking at root causes of failures at a conference . Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. Root Causes of Tailings Management Failures: The Severity of Consequence of Failures Attributed to Overtopping 1915–2015. In Proceedings of the Protections 2016, Fort Collins, CO, USA, 14 June 2016. [Google Scholar] In 2015 Bowker Associates collaborated with 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 global mining economics 1910-2010 ( Risk, Economics and Public Liability of TSF Failures, Bowker/Chambers July 2015) The third annual update of this globally referenced and used compilation was just released at Researchgate. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324594429_World_Tailings_Dam_Failures_From_1915_-_as_of_Mar_31_2018) 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 Brumahindo Dam Failure, Buffalo Creek Coal TSF Failure 1972, Catastrophic Tailings Failures, Germano Tailings Dam Failure, ICOLD BULLETIN 121, Linhares Civil Action Against Samarco, Measuring Magnitude of Consequence TSF Failures, Mike Davies, mining environmental risk management, mining public liability, Responsible Mining, Responsible Mining Foundation, RMI2020, Samarco $44 billion lawsuit by Brazil, Samarco Dam Failure, Social License To Operate, Uncategorized, UNEP TAILINGS MANAGEMENT REFORMS, unfunded public and enviornmental liabilities, United Nations Human Rights, World Bank, World Mine Tailings Failures and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s