Caixin
Mar 31, 2020 02:04 AM
ENVIRONMENT

Mine Tailings Dam Leak in Northeastern China Threatens Local Water Supply

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What’s new: A tailings dam leak at a molybdenum mine in China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang over the weekend threatened to contaminate the local water supply, the local government said.

No casualties were reported in the incident that occurred March 28, and the danger was under control, according to the Heilongjiang government, which launched a level-two emergency response.

The leakage took place at the tailings pond of the Yichun Luming Mining Co., a subsidiary of state-run China Railway Resources Group and a key business in the city of Yichun, which has a population of 1.1 million.

A nearby water plant at risk of contamination was shut down, the Yichun government said in a statement. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment sent a team led by Vice Minister Zhai Qing to Yichun to direct the emergency response, the ministry said.

Monday afternoon, nearly 51 hours after the leak, a local resident posted a video on social media showing contaminated water in the Yijimi River, the main source of local water supply. In the video, the color of the water looks like cement, and the resident said she could smell a pungent odor.

Background: Molybdenum is a silvery metal used to make stainless steel and tools. China accounted for around 45% of mined molybdenum supply globally in 2019, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates.

Tailings dams are the most common waste disposal method for mining operations. The collapse of a Vale SA tailings dam in Brazil in January 2019 killed more than 250 people.

In July 2018, an inspection team from the Ministry of Emergency Management found that Yichun Luming Mining and its tailings pond had serious potential safety risks.

Quick Takes are condensed versions of China-related stories for fast news you can use. To read the full Caixin article in Chinese, click here.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com)

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