High in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan Mountains, the twin effects of climate change and gold mining have combined to pose a potential environmental and human health disaster. A melting glacier is feeding a rapidly expanding lake, which experts fear could burst its banks and overrun a mine tailings pond, releasing toxic waste into the region’s water system.
World delegates are now in Paris thrashing out details of a deal to cut emissions to mitigate global warming, which has caused glaciers throughout the world to melt for the past 50 years. Melting icecaps in the poles are causing sea levels to rise, and retreating glaciers in other regions are causing localised flooding in areas along glacier-fed rivers.
A Glacial Lake Outburst Flood can bring more immediate and extreme risks. That’s when rising water in a lake fed by glacial melt breaks through the natural moraine dam, which is made of soil, rock and ice. The frequency of GLOFs has been increasing over the past half century in the Himalayan region, causing the loss of lives and infrastructure.
Due to mining, the prospect of a GLOF at Kyrgyzstan’s Petrov Lake is graver still.
Canada’s Centerra Gold, which is partly owned by the Kyrgyzstan government through a company called Kyrgyzaltyn, runs the biggest open pit gold mine in Central Asia. Centerra does not mine in the Petrov glacier, but it operates on at least two other nearby glaciers at 4,000 meters above sea level. The mine’s tailings pond sits five kilometers below Petrov Lake, which has been expanding rapidly.
A GLOF would wipe out at least part of the tailings pond, spilling cyanide and other chemicals into the Kumtor River, which flows into a water system that millions of people depend on for irrigation, fishing and household use.
For the complete article, please see IRIN News Asia.
Source: IPS News Agency
By Steven Lang
JOHANNESBURG, Sep 30 (IPS) - Environmentalists and tour operators appear to be losing the battle against mining companies in Mpumalanga, a province in the east of South Africa. This confrontation -- which also pits two ministries against each other -- will determine the future of hundreds of lakes and rivers, and has implications for the economic sustainability of the province.
In May 2011, two weeks before I was scheduled to start research in the region, a Mongol herder named Mergen was hit by a mining truck while protecting his pastureland in Xilingol, Inner Mongolia. He was dragged 140 feet and killed. His death sparked a month of protests.