So just how toxic are mine tailings then?

Rather depends upon what minerals the tailings are from:

Mud from a dam that burst at an iron ore mine in Brazil earlier this month, killing 12 people and polluting an important river, is toxic, the United Nations’ human rights agency has said.

The statement contradicts claims by Samarco, the mine operator at the site of the rupture, that the water and mineral waste contained by the dam are not toxic.

Citing “new evidence”, the UN’s office of the high commissioner for human rights said in a statement the residue “contained high levels of toxic heavy metals and other toxic chemicals”.

Sure it contains toxic heavy metals. There will indeed be uranium, arsenic and all sorts in there. But then there’s those and others in the soil in your garden too. In your veg patch even. They’re known components of what we call “dirt”.

Now, if a gold mine tailings damn had broken, then I’d be worried about residual cyanide. And if a uranium tailings dam burst, there’d be more thorium around than I’d be comfortable with. A bauxite plant’s damn, well, that happened in Hungary and red mud is not nice stuff. Very alkaline indeed and damaging just for that reason.

Iron ore tailings? It’s dirt. And it will cause the same problems as dirt: kill the fish in the river, yes, make the water difficult to treat as the plume moves downstream. But once the bolus has passed through the river that’s pretty much it. The composition of the tailings won’t be greatly different from the mud that’s already on the bottom of the river.

That UN “toxic metals” is just the usual Greenpeace stuff of As at 50 ppm is toxic heavy metals. Which As is, but it really is the dose that makes the poison.

Samarco said in a statement that both pre- and post-disaster tests show the mud released in the dam burst, a mixture of water, iron oxides and silica or quartz known as tailings, presented no danger to human health and did not contain water contaminants.

While iron and manganese levels in the mud are above normal, Samarco said, they were below dangerous levels.

BHP Billiton said on Thursday that the waste was chemically stable and would not change its composition in water.

Sounds about right to me.

6 thoughts on “So just how toxic are mine tailings then?”

  1. As toxic goes the UN is right up there. The bastards are never out of the media peddling one lot of socialist tripe after another.

    Time the money was cut off and the New York circus shut down.

    Where is a latterday Roger Thornhill to stab all UN officials in the bank simultaneously. Now that would be a front page photo.

    * Before any pendants point out that Thornhill was innocent-I know.

  2. Stab them in the bank? The back obviously, although stabbed through the bag is what most of them actually deserve.

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    Iron ore tailings? It’s dirt.

    The problem is that Greenpeace knows the public is made up of idiots, or at least their core audience is moronic. They can make tailings from a mine sound scary.

    What the public needs is to have this put in context – the sludge that leaked from the dam is more or less the same as the stuff people wash of their hands when they are doing that pottery art and craft crap that Ghost made popular.

    How scary does that sound?

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    JuliaM – “that ‘Ghost’ is a popular film is pretty scary.”

    Maybe it is just my age. Still, I think it is better than Twilight.

    Oh, my love, my darling
    I’ve hungered for your touch
    A long, lonely time
    Time goes by so slowly
    And time can do so much
    Are you still mine?
    I need your love
    I need your love
    God speed your love to me

    Maybe we can get Tim N to do a Blues Grass version?

    All in all, it is one of the Top 100 biggest grossing films – but only just. It was probably Whoopie Goldberg’s best film. Like the competition is tough. Not Patrick Swayze’s best by a long shot, but what is is a tough question. Point Break is probably the best film but he was not good in it. Road House? Demi Moore was still trying to act back then so it might be her best role although most sensible people would probably pick A Few Good Men.

    It has had an enduring influence. Everyone has mocked the pottery scene. Oddly enough it has influenced Hip Hop:

    Swayze’s name has become a commonly used term in hip hop songs.[53] Lyrics will use the phrase “…and I’m Swayze,” meaning that the speaker has become “like a ghost”, meaning he disappeared or is otherwise gone. This is a reference to the title character of Swayze’s film Ghost (1990). It begun in the early 1990s, by rappers such as EPMD, Black Sheep, CL Smooth. Its use continued into the mid-nineties and the 2000s with use by such rappers as The Notorious B.I.G. in 2Pac’s song “Runnin’ (Dying to Live)”, Method Man, Aesop Rock, Mistah F.A.B.’s “Ghost Ride It”, and in Bad Meets Evil’s “Fast Lane”.

    Not, I would have thought, a big market for romantic ghost stories.

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