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US Mining Sites Unleash 50 Million Gallons Of Toxic Water Into Lakes & Streams Every Day

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US Mining Sites Unleash 50 Million Gallons Of Toxic Water Into Lakes & Streams Every Day
Photo Credit: www. weather.com

Elias Marat, TMU

A new Associated Press report has blown the lid off the mining industry’s toxic effect across the United States, revealing that over tens of millions of gallons of contaminated water tainted by arsenic, lead and other dangerous metals are flowing into lakes, streams and other drinking water sources on a daily basis.

The report reveals the horrific cost the public has been forced to bear for private corporations’ pursuit of raw material wealth, specifically in terms of the cost of the disposal of toxic waste – a responsibility that has been ignored by wide swathes of the mining industry. The mining industry has instead allowed such toxins and contamination to flow unimpeded into precious water sources in states like California, Colorado, Montana and Oklahoma. Companies that mined for gold, silver, lead and other minerals were given free license to strip the earth in search of these raw materials. Once the mining projects failed to yield further profits, the companies were allowed to relocate to previously unutilized areas with no regard for the toxic waste they left behind.

In effect, these companies were externalizing the costs of mining to taxpayers — who unknowingly footed the bill for the clean-up – or to future generations who are now forced to suffer the health consequences and ecological damage resulting from the unwillingness of companies to pay for the cost of toxic disposal and the detoxification of former sites.

Water colored from a mine waste spill is seen in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Aug. 7, 2015.
Water colored from a mine waste spill is seen in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Aug. 7, 2015.

The AP investigation entailed looking at public data and research on 43 mining sites under federal oversight, including complexes that included anywhere from dozens to hundreds of mines.

On average, over 50 million gallons (189 million litters) of contaminated wastewater has been flowing from the sites on a daily basis.

Oftentimes, the untreated wastewater trickles or flows into nearby ponds, rivers, soil and groundwater, comprising about 20-million gallons (76 million litters) of polluted water that could fill over 2,000 tanker trucks, according to the report.

The remaining water which is actually treated comes at a great cost to taxpayers, who will likely be forced to capture the waste or treat polluted streams for thousands of years, if not indefinitely, long after the mining firms have profited from ruining the environment.

In many cases, the pollution has persisted despite these sites being listed as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund clean-up sites – among the country’s most hazardous, which have been frequently linked to cancer, birth defects, and rare, deadly diseases.

The Superfund program has seen sharp cutbacks under the Trump administration, which has installed EPA administrators like Scott Pruitt and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler who have been close to such major polluters as the big banking, oil, and agriculture industries.

An example of such sites suffering extreme groundwater pollution is the town of Rimini, which lies just outside of Helena, Montana’s capital, where 150 gold, lead and copper mines operated from the 1870s until 1953.

The community was added to the Superfunds list in 1999, allowing the EPA to replace contaminated soil in yards and deliver bottled water for a decade. However, the community is still piping-in tap water that’s contaminated with the metals, forcing them to wash their clothes, dishes and bathe in toxic wastewater.

Many of the polluted sites across the country are simply beyond the pale of recoverability, such as Northern California’s Iron Mountain Mine, east Oklahoma’s Tar Creek, and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains — the site of the catastrophic Gold King Mine blowout of 2015.

The AP report notes:

“Estimates of the number of such abandoned mine sites range from 161,000 in 12 western states to as many as 500,000 nationwide. At least 33,000 have degraded the environment, according to the Government Accountability Office, and thousands more are discovered every year.

Officials have yet to complete work including basic risk analyses on about 80% of abandoned mining sites on federal lands. Most are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, which under Trump is seeking to consolidate mine clean-ups with another program and cut their combined 2019 spending from $35 million to $13 million.”

It remains unclear whether the U.S. government will ever have the political will to deal with the toxic legacy of the U.S. mining industry, especially given that the rules governing pollution and runoff from mining sites come from the antiquated 1872 Mining Act.

In the meantime, efforts by Democrats to force the mining industry to foot the bill for a special clean-up fund for old hard rock mining sites have faced concerted resistance from the industry and their Republican allies in Congress.

Montana Mining Association director Tammy Johnson unrepentantly told the AP:

“Back in the day there really wasn’t a lot known about acid mine drainage … I just don’t think that today’s companies bear the responsibility.”

The Trump administration has also bent over backwards to protect the polluters, halting a proposed 2017 EPA rule that would force mining firms to post clean-up bonds or otherwise pay for the clean-up rather than push the costs onto taxpayers. Environmental groups are suing to ensure that the EPA rule is revived, and will appear in federal court next month.

It remains clear that someone has to pay for what will amount to a vast clean-up campaign and campaign for the renewal of land that is effectively being destroyed on a daily basis. But who will that “someone” be – the taxpayers and residents living in the effected land, or the mining industry who perpetrated the widespread pollution of the land and tainting of the water?

And the question also remains about whether business as usual – the sacking of the land for private gain – will be allowed to proceed, even if the cost from a massive clean-up comes out of taxpayer pockets or industry profits.

This article (US Mining Sites Unleash 50 Million Gallons of Toxic Water Into Lakes and Streams Every Day) was originally featured at The Mind Unleashed and is re-posted here with permission.

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Environment

This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World

Welcome to the most colourful river of the world. Rainbows are jealous of the beauty of Caño Cristales.

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This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World
Photo Credit: World of Travel

Caño Cristales is a vividly coloured river found in Colombia’s Meta region, in South America. It is commonly known as the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow,” and when you are first confronted with its breath-taking beauty, you immediately know that these names are by no means an exaggeration.

During the peak season, Caño Cristales sports vivid colours including black, blue, green, yellow and red, the last caused by Macarenia clavigera plants. The river is said to contain no fish, and it is situated in a mountainous region with nearby grasslands. The total length of Caño Cristales is 100 kilometres (62 miles) and it lies in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park.

Image credit: Moterocolombia
Image credit: Moterocolombia

Caño Cristales is a fast-flowing river with many rapids and waterfalls. Small circular pits known as giant’s kettles can be found in many parts of the riverbed, which have been formed by pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. Once one of these harder rock fragments falls into one of the cavities, it is rotated by the water current and begins to carve at the cavity wall, increasing the dimensions of the pit.

Image source: World of Travel
Image credit: World of Travel
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The river is home to a wide variety of aquatic plants. Its water is extremely clear due to the lack of nutrients and small particles – which also explain the absence of fish. Almost unique is the bright red – pink coloration of riverbed after the rainy period in the end of June – November, caused by the endemic plant species Macarenia clavígera.

Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The colours of Caño Cristales reach their peak some weeks between June and December, and this is the best time to visit. The river is in a remote area and can only be accessed by aircraft, then boat, and even then, a hike is required.

Tourists were unable to visit Caño Cristales for 20 years, from 1989 to 2008, mainly due to guerrilla warfare in the area, but also because of the potential negative effect they would have on the habitat. However, visitors have been able to tour the area since 2009 with authorised tourism companies.

Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co

Caño Cristales is among the most beautiful rivers on earth. National Geographic quotes that the river seems to have been from “The Garden of Eden” (Spanish: Paraíso), and yes, it is definitely true.

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Animal World

First Baby Koala Born In Australian Wildlife Park Since Devastating Bushfires

The Australian Reptile Park has good reason to celebrate, welcoming the first koala joey born at the park since the devastation.

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First Baby Koala Born In Australian Wildlife Park Since Devastating Bushfires
Photo Credit: www.wsvn.com

(TMU) – After the horrific Australian bush fires over the 2019/2020 fire season, the Australian Reptile Park has good reason to celebrate, welcoming the first koala joey born at the park since the devastation. The Park’s handlers named the new-born Ash, in remembrance of the Black Summer fire season.

The koala population were arguably the hardest hit during the fires, with their death toll estimated to be in the thousands. Northern New South Wales lost about 85% of their koala population while researchers are still working around other areas to determine the extent of the damage between November and February. No wonder little Ash’s birth is being celebrated, hopefully the first of many joeys born in the wake of the fires.

Australian Reptile Park Zookeeper, Dan Rumsey said: “Ash represents the start of what we’re hoping to be another successful breeding season.”

“It was such an incredible moment when we saw Ash poke her head out of her mom’s pouch for the first time!”

While female koalas generally have one joey a year, some may go two to three years without having any and the stress suffered during the fires could have a negative impact on their reproduction, especially now, when their population across the country desperately needs a boost.

According to the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, koalas could be listed as endangered because of the bushfire crisis. Earlier this year, the MP announced a $50 million funding package to help wildlife populations bounce back after the devastating bushfires.

Ms Ley told reporters: “It may be necessary… to see whether in certain parts of the country, koalas move from where they are, which is often vulnerable, up to endangered.”

Half the funds will go towards wildlife carers, hospitals and zoos, who have the people best equipped to lead the re-population and rehousing efforts.

Experts were shocked by the devastating loss of life during the 2019/2020 bush fire season – as was Cate Faehrmann – committee chair of the NSW upper house inquiry, when she saw the numbers from their investigation to determine how many koalas were lost over the period.

There is now a significant and immediate threat of extinction to koalas, according to a report published in March.

At least 5,000 koalas are estimated to have died, according to the report from the global conservation group International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“That’s extremely shocking and really should be a wake-up call to the government to pause any threats to koala habitat including logging and development in key areas,” Cate Faehrmann told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

“There are so many threats that if we are going to stop this wonderful animal from becoming extinct we have to really, really, prioritize securing and protecting their habitat now.”

For now, little Ash and her mom have set the ball rolling to rebuild their species. May they flourish and plenty of little joeys start popping their heads out of their mom’s pouches soon.

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Animal World

World’s Rarest Primate, The Critically Endangered Hainan Gibbon, Returns From Brink Of Extinction

Up until recently, the highly intelligent and charismatic Hainan Gibbon was standing at the brink of imminent extinction with only 10 members still existing.

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Photo Credit: www.asu.edu

Until very recently, the highly intelligent and charismatic Hainan Gibbon was standing at the brink of imminent extinction with only 10 members of the species existing in a tiny patch of land on a tropical island at China’s southernmost tip.

But thanks to the devoted work of a team of conservationists, the ultra-rare Hainan Gibbon appears to have a much brighter future, with their numbers swelling to 30 individuals as of this year.

The Hainan Gibbon is not only one of the world’s rarest apes and rarest primates, but it’s also one of the rarest animals on the face of the Earth, largely restricted to a small patch of rainforest at the Bawangling National Nature Reserve on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

Gibbons can be found in forests across Southeast Asia. Like other gibbons, the Hainan gibbon swings rapidly from tree to tree and mostly rely on fruit such as lychee and figs for its diet. The males have jet-black fur with white patches on their cheeks, while mature females are a rich golden orange. Their faces are tender, and their eyes seem to reflect an intelligent curiosity about their surroundings.

“They are really intelligent animals. When they look at you, it feels like they are trying to communicate,” Philip Lo Yik-fui told South China Morning Post. Lo has been helping to lead conservation efforts through the Hong Kong-based NGO, Kadoorie Conservation China.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – which has included the species on its Red List as “Critically Endangered” – the Hainan gibbon used to exist in high numbers, with researchers estimating that over two thousand individuals populated the island.

However, the species’ numbers fell precipitously in the second half of the 20th century thanks to climate factors as well as massive deforestation resulting from China’s push toward prosperity and industrialization. Hunters and poachers also targeted the highly intelligent and social gibbons, either for the illegal pet trade, food, or for traditional medicine.

By 2003, only 13 wild gibbons divided into two family groups remained – a result of not only the diminishing quality of their habitat but also their naturally slow birth rate.

Over the years, however, Kadoorie Conservation China has been monitoring the gibbons, working hard to discourage poachers, and also planting over 80,000 fig and lychee trees to link the populations of the famously shy gibbons and expand their habitat.

BBC 3 Modern China SE Hainan Gibbon 5d

And with the gibbons now reproducing at a stable pace, Lo is hopeful that once they get the gibbons’ numbers above 50, their IUCN designation can change from being critically endangered to simply “endangered.”

“Our biggest goal now is to help expand the gibbons’ territory so the whole species won’t be wiped out if natural disasters occur,” Lo said.

Yet concerns remain about the genetic health of the Hainan Gibbons, who are mostly either half-siblings or full-siblings – meaning that their gene pool is far too narrow at present.

CGTN Nature: Bawangling Series | Episode 1: Hainan Black-crested Gibbon

However, Lo is proud that his group’s efforts have stabilized things for the remaining Hainan Gibbons. His next goal is to continue expanding the creature’s territory so that if a typhoon or other natural disaster strikes, the whole species won’t be wiped out in one fell swoop.

The Kadoorie Conservation China team has also recruited ex-hunters from the community, who have a wealth of experience about local forests, to keep an eye on the gibbons and take part in conservation efforts.

Lo said: “We try and install a sense of pride in the locals, and the ex-hunters are really satisfied with their work now. That is the main point of conservation work; it’s just as much about the people. And now people who were on opposing sides are teammates working together to protect the gibbons.”

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Environment

Reforestation Drones Will Plant 40,000 Trees This Month With 1 Billion Goal Set for 2028

A Canadian startup has set the lofty goal of using drones to plant a billion trees by 2028. The company hopes to revolutionize reforestation.

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Reforestation Drones Will Plant 40,000 Trees This Month With 1 Billion Goal Set for 2028
Photo Credit: Newsweek

(TMU) – As the world continues to witness warming climate conditions, there has been a frightful uptick in massive wildfires from California to the Amazon rainforest and the Australian bush.

And as the world’s forests burn to the ground, this creates a dilemma not only for wildlife habitats but also for us humans – because trees help absorb and store carbon dioxide, they are one of our basic lines of defence against global warming.

However, a Canadian startup has set the lofty goal of using drones to plant a billion trees by 2028 – and in the process, the company hopes to revolutionize the manner in which the process of reforestation is tackled.

Flash Forest plans to deploy its revolutionary new technology to identify the best planting sites on fire-scorched land just north of Toronto where it can begin firing specially designed seedpods into the ground. The pods consist of germinated seeds, fertilizer, and a proprietary blend of “secret” ingredients, according to Newsweek.

A spray drone would then cover the area with nutrients such as nitrogen, helping the seedlings to grow, before mapping drones are sent later to monitor progress.

The company hopes to plant at least 40,000 trees in the Toronto region this month alone. Later this year, Flash Forest will also plant up to 300,000 trees in Hawaii.

Now On Kickstarter: Flash Forest | Using Drones to Plant 1 Billion Trees

And while people are capable of planting around 1,500 seed pods by hands, per day – requiring a hectic pace, without a doubt – Flash Forest’s drone solutions are apparently capable of planting 10,000 to 20,000 at present, with the company hoping to eventually be able to plant 100,000 a day.

And not only is the process far less intensive in terms of manual labour required, but it’s also far cheaper at around 50 cents per seed pod – about 20% cheaper than traditional planting techniques.

Image Credit: Flash Forest
Image Credit: Flash Forest

According to a study published in the journal Science, planting about a billion trees across the globe could remove two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—approximately 25% of the CO2 in the atmosphere—creating a vast natural means to trap and store the emissions in an affordable and politically non-controversial manner.

Image Credit: Flash Forest
Image Credit: Flash Forest

The company claims that its drones can sharply increase the speed and efficiency of planting trees. The company said:

“Flash Forest is a reforestation company that can plant at 10 times the normal rate and at 20% of the cost of traditional tree planting techniques.

With drone engineering, we bring new levels of accuracy, precision and speed to the reforestation industry.”

The world faces a shrinking window of time in which to tackle the problem of heat-trapping emissions, with researchers warning that rampant and accelerating hot conditions across the world could exceed the worst-case scenarios previously forecast by climate experts – giving added impetus to mitigation efforts.

Flash Forest co-founder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom said that’s where its drones can be a crucial part of such a strategy. She told Fast Company:

“There are a lot of different attempts to tackle reforestation. But despite all of them, they’re still failing, with a net loss of 7 billion trees every year.”

Ahlstrom notes that it’s not possible to combat deforestation by planting trees alone – however, Flash Forest’s state-of-the-art hardware using mapping drones and pneumatic-powered firing devices that shoot pods deep into the soil can be an asset in the cause.

Continuing, she said:

“It allows you to get into trickier areas that human planters can’t.”

Each planting will also consist of four species and eventually eight – covering an aspect of mass tree-planting that similar initiatives have overlooked in the past. Ahlstrom said:

“We very much prioritize biodiversity, so we try to plant species that are native to the land as opposed to monocultures.

We work with local seed banks and also take into account that the different changes that climate change brings with temperature rise, anticipating what the climate will be like in five to eight years when these trees are much older and have grown to a more mature stage, and how that will affect them.”

According to their website, they’ve so far planted 469 White Spruce, 344 White Pine, around 327 Blue Spruce, 225 Red Maple, 790 White Birch, 621 Sugar Maple, 131 Douglas Fir, and 199 Balsam.

And with researchers claiming that the Earth has room for over 1 trillion additional trees that can be planted across the globe, Flash Forest could help change the way any worldwide planting initiative would take shape. For Ahlstrom, it’s pretty simple math. She said:

“I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society (and) when you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans.”

By Jade Small | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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