U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- The recent mining disaster in Romania, which
poisoned several European rivers with toxic lead and cyanide, has
once again demonstrated the environmental damage that the industry
can cause, says a national legal group. Meanwhile, in Latin America,
a mining boom is taking place that has seen $35 billion in investment
in the last four years alone, most of it from large multinational
corporations. Unfortunately, regulations governing mining in the
countries of the region are often weak and ineffective. How can Latin
America continue to develop its economy without inviting a similar
The answer is a region-wide approach to mining based on pollution
prevention, according to a new Environmental Law Institute (ELI)
report developed in conjunction with environmental organizations in
six Latin American countries and Canada. In Pollution Prevention
in Mining: A Proposed Framework for the Americas, the Institute
provides a comprehensive blueprint for a uniform system of laws and
policies throughout the Americas that would create an even playing
field for Latin American countries while offering the mining industry
a consistent set of standards.
"Pollution prevention should be a strategic management principle
for the hard rock mining industry," said ELI Senior Attorney Susan
Bass, Director of the Inter-American Center for Environmental Policy
and lead author. "It offers the opportunity to avoid or minimize
environmental impacts while also identifying and promoting economy
and efficiency in the design and operation of mining facilities. It
enhances recovery of minerals while helping to minimize impacts on
the environment and preventing the creation of long-term hazards."
The report provides an overview of the legal and policy tools that
can promote pollution prevention in each of the three phases of
mining: exploration, active operations, and closure. Pollution
prevention in the exploration phase requires substantial attention to
limiting the extent of disturbance and could mean avoiding some sites
In the operations phase, the report recommends "source reduction"
-- strategies to reduce or eliminate pollutants at the point of
generation. Source reduction substitutes cleaner processes, such as
eliminating the use of mercury, cyanides, and acids for extracting
metals from ores, and avoids the creation of toxics. The report also
recommends recycling of wastes as materials in other industrial
processes and recycling of toxic materials through closed-loop
processes. Finally, changes in the post-mining configuration of the
land can reduce the threat of pollution after mine closure.
To accomplish these goals, the report examines legal and policy
tools at the national level, such as environmental impact assessment,
permitting, and regulatory standards, as well as policy approaches
such as public participation and economic incentives. By combining
the best tools with suggested new ones to address gaps or weaknesses
in existing laws, the project partners developed a proposed framework
for implementation in all American countries.
ELI's partners in the report include the Fundacion Ambiente y
Recursos Naturales in Argentina, the Centro Especializado de Derecho
y Politica Ambiental in Bolivia, the Instituto Socioambiental in
Brazil, the Comite Nacional Pro Defensa de la Fauna y Flora in Chile,
the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental in Mexico, the Sociedad
Peruana de Derecho Ambiental in Peru, and the Canadian Institute for
Environmental Law and Policy.
Pollution Prevention in Mining can be ordered at (202) 939-3844,
(800) 433-5120, or firstname.lastname@example.org. The report is also available for
free in PDF format at www.eli.org.
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