Along the UNEP press realease, the Minimata Convention -"named after a city in Japan where serioous damage occurred as a result of a mercury pollution in the mid-20th century"- signed on January 19 in Geneva delivers "a significant boost with governments agreeing to a global, legally-binding treaty to prevent [mercury] emissions and releases".As far as small-scale gold mining is concerned, the Minimata Convention signatories made a small but pragamatic step towards a global banning of mercury in mining, acknowledging that a full compliance will take time and will require support from the governments:
- "Governements agreed that the treaty will require countries to draw up strategies to reduce the amount of mercury used by smal-scale miners
- Nations with artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations will draw up national plans with thre years of the treaty entering into force to reduce and if possible eliminate the use f mercury in such operations
- Public awareness campaigns and support for mercury-free alternatives will also be part of the plans"
The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC5) held in Geneva, Switzerland finally adopted on January 9 a global treaty on mercury. This marks the end of a four years process involving more than140 countries; four years of difficult negotiation along which were bargained facts, figures and dates.
Coal-fired power stations are now asked to stop releasing mercury in the atmosphere and gold mining have to make sure no mercury is release during the gold separation process.
This is an important step that undoubtedly goes in the right direction. However, the transition towards a mercury-free small scale gold mining will take time and will require on the long term a strong technical and economic support for the local miners and their families to comply with this new regulation. Let's hope the 140 signatories are on the same page about this.
As noted by the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) organizers: "Mercury is moving towards the top of the agenda for regulatory bodies and interest from the public domain is growing".
"Science informing global policy" is the theme chosen for the 11th edition of this international events, which usually gathers 700 to 1200 experts; a meaningful choice which directly relates to the present Mercury Regulation Momentum.
"The ICMGP in 2013 will be of particular public importance as this will be the year of the launch of the United Nations Environment Programme Global Legally Binding Treaty on Mercury. The ICMGP 2013 meeting is therefore perfectly timed to celebrate the official launch of the treaty and to discuss how to put the treaty into practice", said the ICMGP website.
The 11th ICMGP International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant will take place in Edinburgh, Scotland from July 28th - August 2nd 2013.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) started to build on the EU and US banning strategies for mercury in 2009.
At date, five rounds of negotiation named "Sessions of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee" (or INC) were successively held between the Governing Council partners.
The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC5) will be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 13 to 18 January 2013.
A global ban decision is unlikely to happen in Geneva thought this session is supposed to launch the UNEP Global Legally Binding Treaty on Mercury. The Governing Council partners might more easily agree on a promoting plan of the mercury-free alternatives, especially targeting the artisanal small-scale gold miners.
The story begun in 1991 when geologists Charles Fipke and Stewart Blusson founds, after years of exploration, the diamantiferous deposit that will become Canada's first surface and underground diamond mine, the Ekati mine.
According to the EKATI Diamond Mine 2011 Year Review, "EKATI has produced, on average, over three million carats per year of rough diamonds over the last three years with production transitioning from predominantly open-cut mining to a mix of open-cut and underground mining."
On November 13, 2012, Toronto-based Harry Winston Diamond Corporation announced "it is buying BHP Billiton's Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories for $500 million US. The deal, announced Tuesday, includes associated diamond sorting and sales facilities in Yellowknife and Antwerp (...) The mine is estimated to have seven years of production left, but the companies say there could be additional resources which could become economical with increased diamond prices". Charles Fipke and Stewart Blusson own 20 percent of the Ekati mine, along the joint-venture they created with BHP-Billiton, and more importantly have first refusal rights. November's announcement activated a 60 days period for Fipke and Blusson to decide to buy the stake on the same terms.
Rumors involving Robert Friedland will keep the analysts in suspense for some more days.
No doubt it will significantly impact the international uranium market for the coming years: the long awaited come back of Cigar Lake mine is about to happened... on schedule.
Q3 2012 Update just confirmed what was expected by Cameco's management and the market: "first commissioning in ore in mid-2013 and the first packaged pounds in the fourth quarter of 2013".
After having recycled the equivalent of about 20,000 nuclear warheads, the Megatons to Megawatts™ Program will terminate in 2013, leaving a huge gap corresponding to a third of the worldwide supply, which can be only filled by mining extraction.
"Since 1994, the Megatons to Megawatts program has significantly enhanced world security by steadily reducing stockpiles of nuclear bomb-grade materials, while creating a clean, valuable resource--uranium for use in nuclear fuel", USEC's website says.
China just brought new evidence that uranium demand will continue to grow independently from the global economic context. The forecasted imports are set to grow regularly at least for the next ten years to fuel the amazing economic growth of the country. The World Nuclear Association estimates China will be using 20,000 tons of uranium a year by 2020.
China Daily reported energy experts analysis that the announcement, beginning of November, "that China has found a large uranium ore deposit in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region (...) energy experts are saying the discovery won't lead to the country's importing less of the radioactive material".
A recent report issued by the Nuclear Energy Agency and the Organisation For Economic Co-Operation And Development"provides a critical analysis of the contribution that nuclear energy can make to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions".
After insisting on the necessity to increase the extraction of uranium, the report assessed the nuclear energy's contribution to today's emissions reductions. The authors conclude by writing that "even taking into account pessimistic evaluations of its indirect emissions, nuclear energy is today a major contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions in the power sector".
December 4 is a very special day for the mining industry. This is the feast day of Barbara, Patron Saint for Miners and Blasters, and globally for all the professions that relate to fire (firemen, fireworks specialists, etc.)
From her tragic story, which appeared later to be a legend, "the belief became widespread that Barbara could control lightning and other manifestations of flame and fire. (...) Miners later developed the use of gunpowder for disintegrating rock, involving manifestations similar to thunder claps and lightning flashes. This led to their need for special protection against accidents from the use of explosives (...)" (Source: The Legend of Saint Barbara, Patron Saint of Mines in Infomine.com)
Saint Barbara remains a vivid part of mining traditions and heritage. In Europe, a statue of Saint Barbara always stands at the entrance of a tunnel construction site. A lot of mining countries still honor Saint Barbara, from Latin America to Asia. Many extraction sites have been named after Saint Barbara (Compania Minera Santa Barbara S.A. in Chile, Complejo Minero Santa Bárbara in Mexico, Barbara Experimental Coal Mine in Poland, St Barbara's Southern Cross in Australia, etc.), thereby keeping alive the reputation of Saint Barbara as our patron saint.