Energy and Mines


Climate change hits home as miners work to mitigate impacts on their operations

Climate change hits home as miners work to mitigate impacts on their operations
September 25
12:28 2017

By Хакимов Хабир (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Mining companies across the globe are confronting new challenges as the effects of climate change threaten existing and legacy infrastructure, particularly in the far north.

“Look at what’s happening with what we once called ‘permafrost’,”  Dennis Mahony, a partner at Torys LLP in Toronto, told Lexpert. “There is an awful lot of waste rock contained in frozen tailings dams in the far north. Melting ground threatens the stability of those storage structures, and it increases the likelihood that acid and heavy metals from the waste will leak into the surrounding soil and water, causing major ecological damage.”

Transportation poses another issue. Decades-old roads over frozen bodies of water may begin to destabilize as winters become milder, forcing miners to fly in personnel and supplies at a higher cost.

As environments become less predictable, so will the permitting process. Regulators will likely consider whether new projects will remain safe for people, wildlife, and nature decades down the road as conditions change.

“The mining project will still be there, even if it’s in the closure and reclamation stage,” says Keith Bergner, a partner with Lawson Lundell LLP in Vancouver. “What today might be a very minor impact on the habitat of a healthy animal or bird population might become a much more significant impact on a population diminished or dislocated by climate change.”

Read the full article at Lexpert.

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Kate Dougherty

Kate Dougherty