Peru's illegal gold mines are devastating the Amazon rain forest

Peru's illegal gold mines are devastating the Amazon rain forest

QUINCE MIL, Peru — The roads cutting through the Amazon rain forest are lined with signs encouraging people to protect Peru's natural resources and take care of the environment, but people aren’t sure why the government posts them anymore.

Many rivers in Peru run orange with pollution from illegal gold mining, and trees were cut away to make room for sifting towers and excavators.

Peru, the largest gold producer in Latin America and the sixth largest in the world, has long struggled with illegal gold mining. Thousands of small, unchecked operations extracting gold from the Amazon are responsible for nearly 200 square miles of deforestation and mercury poisoning to the water so severe that several regions declared a state of emergency last year.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski took office in July promising to tackle the problems of "informal," or illegal, mining with an ambitious plan to overhaul antiquated and inefficient government rules. He imposed stricter environmental regulations, streamlined the process to grant permits for legal mines and offered financial incentives for mining operations to submit to government oversight.

But the miners resist those changes because of a thriving black market for gold.

“The whole country is like a Mafia. It’s a big Mafia,” Marcos Llovera, 40, of Cusco, said about the gold mining industry. “How are you going to win against a Mafia? You can’t.”

Llovera runs a mine in this small town of Quince Mil, using one rented excavator and one sifter. He sells the extracted gold to international contacts based in Lima, the country’s capital.

The process left large pockets of the area bald of vegetation, eroded riverbanks and turned the water brown, orange and even a light blue, as Llovera and competing "informal" miners push their excavations deeper into the jungle. This unrestricted mining is the type of activity that Kuczynski is aiming to cut in half by 2021.

Llovera’s mine, like most small operations across Peru, works informally because of an administrative loophole. He received authorization from the federal government to break ground, but can work without oversight because many environmental and operational permits are handled on the regional level.

Miscommunication between government agencies means small mines, such as Llovera's, can operate in bureaucratic limbo while officials scramble to determine which are legal, who is responsible for enforcement, and what to do about pollution produced from the mining.

A law went into effect in March to simplify the process by cutting the required federal permits from six to three. Many other regulations were tweaked to improve oversight of machinery use and access to water, but the number of "informal" mines shows no sign of decreasing.

Kuczynski has tried to persuade miners to submit to government oversight and met with workers in the mineral-rich region of Madre de Dios last year to establish regular talks. But only 114 of 70,000 miners who agreed in September to formalize and become legal have actually done so.

“There’s no willingness to formalize in those mining sectors,” said Julia Cuadros Falla of the environmental advocacy group CooperAcción, which fights illegal mining in Peru. “No one is interested in formalizing.”

Cuadros said attempting to “make deals” with miners and cleaning up the permit process are the wrong approach since environmental exploitation and tax evasion have been key to successful small-scale mining for decades.

She argued that Kuczynski’s administration needs to improve coordination between federal and regional agencies because all levels of the government that try to protect the Amazon have ceased to effectively work together.

Many high-traffic gold trade routes to Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil that were shut down since Kuczynski took office have already been replaced by new ones.

“The laws exist, but there isn’t effective action being taken to enforce them,” said Marta Ojeda, an official with the National Forest and Wildlife Service in the Quispicanchi-Cusco District.

She said her office tries to disband mining operations that use unauthorized heavy machinery and fines them for cutting down trees or polluting the water, but such moves often fail to make a lasting impact without coordination with other agencies.

The Peruvian army occasionally comes into the area to blow up unguarded mining equipment, but Ojeda said she never knows when that is going to happen, much less what to do with the destroyed equipment left to rot in the jungle.


Policemen look at the destruction of camps and pumps used for illegal gold mining in Madre de dios

BCCK manages e-waste with environment in mind

KUCHING: Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) recently enlisted the expertise of Shan Poornam Metals Sdn Bhd (SPM) to manage its ICT waste which included computer monitors and central processing units.

BCCK invests in ICT equipment and facilities and its ICT Department adopted a long-term solution to deal with e-waste.

Electronic scrap components such as CPUs contain harmful components such as lead, cadmium, beryllium or brominated flame retardants.

Recycling and disposal of these components are being undertaken by licensed waste management operators to avoid unsafe exposure and leakage of harmful materials into the environment.

The amount of general waste generated by events hosted at BCCK also warrants proper management. Plastic, glass, aluminium and paper are segregated by BCCK's waste sorting unit prior to collection by SPM, licensed by the Department of Environment (DoE) Malaysia.

"BCCK is committed to managing the waste that goes out from our centre in the safest possible ways. We have the assurance of ISO management systems from appointed vendor SPM to process, salvage and turn our waste into re-useable materials," said BCCK chief executive officer Eric van Piggelen.

SPM and the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) spearhead the recycling and recovery of household e-waste and chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs (chemicals which destroy the Earth's ozone layer), winning numerous awards for innovation and leadership in environmental management solutions.

Among these awards are the Leadership in Renewable Energy & Technology Award by FGCCC and The Leaders International, UAE, Dubai and the Prime Minister's Hibiscus Award 2010/2011 - Special Project on Innovation towards Environmental Solutions.

The company also handles secondary alloy alum ingot and refining of precious group metal (PGM) and copper.

SPM has 500 trained personnel with comprehensive expertise in waste management. The company has various international certifications that validate its waste management processes namely ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, ISO 9001 Quality Management System and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Management.

IISc researchers' ecofriendly way of recycling e-waste

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) researchers have found a novel way to recycle the mounting pile of electronic waste more efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner. According to the United National Environmental Programme, about 50 million tonnes of e-waste is generated annually across the world.

The new approach is based on the idea of crushing e-waste into nanosize particles using a ball mill at very low temperature ranging from -50 to -150 degree C.

When crushed to nanosize particles for about 30 minutes, different classes of materials - metals, oxides and polymer - that go into the making of electronic items get physically reduced into their constituent phases, which can then be separated without using any chemicals. The use of low-temperature grinding eliminates noxious emission. The results of the study were published in the journal Materials Today.

"The behaviour of individual materials is different when they are pulverised at room temperature. While metal and oxides get mixed, the local temperature of polymer increases during grinding and so the polymer melts instead of breaking," says Dr. Chandra Sekhar Tiwary from Materials Engineering Department at IISc and the first author of the paper. "The polymer starts reacting with the rest of the components and forms a chunk. So we can't separate the individual components."

"The deformation behaviour at low temperature is very different from room temperature. There are two processes that happen when milling. The polymer material breaks but metals get welded, some sort of solid-state welding resulting in mixing; the welded metals again get broken during milling. At low temperature mixing does not happen," says Prof. K. Chattopadhyay from the Materials Engineering Department at IISc and the corresponding author of the paper. There is also a lower limit to which materials can be broken into when e-waste is milled at room temperature. The maximum size reduction that can be achieved is about of 200 nanometre. But in the case of low temperature ball milling the size can be reduced to 20-150 nanometres.

Novel design

The low-temperature ball mill was designed by Dr. Tiwary. The cryo-mill grinding chamber is cooled using liquid nitrogen and a small hardened steel ball is used for grinding the material in a controlled inert atmosphere using argon gas. "The interface remains clean when broken in an inert atmosphere," says Prof. Chattopadhyay.

"One of the main purposes of ball milling [at room temperature] is to mix materials. But in the case of ball milling at low temperature we did not observe any mixing; the individual components separate out really well. We wanted to use this property more constructively. So we took two printed circuit boards from optical mouse and milled them for 30 minutes," recalls Dr. Tiwary.

The polymer becomes brittle when cooled to -120 degree C and ball milling easily breaks it into a fine power. Metals and oxides too get broken but are a bit bigger in size.

The crushed powder was then mixed with water to separate the components into individual classes of materials using gravity. The powder separated into two layers - the polymer floats at the top due to lower density, while metals and oxides of similar size and different density settle at the bottom. The bottom layer when diluted further separated into oxides at the top and metals at the bottom. The oxides and metals were present as individual elements.

"Our low-temperature milling separates the components into single phase components without using any chemicals, which is not possible using other techniques," says Prof. Chattopadhyay. "Our process is scalable and is environment friendly though it uses higher energy."


Electronics recycling program launched in New Brunswick

About 90 per cent of New Brunswickers have end-of-life electronics in their homes, according to EPRA research. (Steve Yeater/Associated Press)


An electronics recycling program aimed at keeping old and unused products out of landfills is now available in New Brunswick.

The Electronic Products Recycling Association, or EPRA, a not-for-profit, industry-led organization, launched the free drop-off program on Thursday.

Residents and businesses will now be able to take electronic waste, such as computers, printers, TVs, and cellphones, to one of 40 authorized drop-off centres across the province, at no charge.

Once collected and sorted, items will be sent to an EPRA-approved recycling plant to remove "substances of concern for proper downstream management."

Recyclable materials, such as metals, plastics and glass, will then be recovered so they can be processed into new products.

Environment Minister Serge Rousselle says the program will help protect the environment and contribute to the province's green economy. (CBC)

The program, approved by Recycle NB in February, will help protect the environment "by making industry responsible for its waste and removing harmful materials from our landfills," Environment and Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle said in a statement.

It will also contribute to the province's green economy, creating jobs, he said.

3,500 tonnes a year

New Brunswick is now one of 10 provinces to adopt the end-of-life electronics recycling program, according to the EPRA.

The programs keep a combined estimated 100,000 metric tonnes of electronic waste out of Canadian landfills each year, said Cliff Hacking, the president and CEO of the recycling group.

The New Brunswick program is expected to divert roughly 3,500 tonnes annually, officials have said.

"Plus, recovered materials go back into the manufacturing of new products so that fewer natural resources are extracted from the environment," said Hacking.

EPRA New Brunswick will work in partnership with electronics manufacturers, distributors and retailers, provincial and municipal governments and consumers to ensure end-of-life electronics are diverted from landfills and recycled in an efficient and responsible manner.


How and Why Your Business Should Recycle Computers

If your small business has any old computers lying around, you might be at a loss about how to dispose of them properly. Recycling tech isn't always as easy as recycling things like paper and aluminum. But it's just as important.

Computers, including desktops, monitors, laptops and other components, contain materials that can be extremely harmful to the environment. And there are plenty of potential benefits for businesses that choose to recycle. Here's more on how and why your small business should recycle its computers.

Savings on New Purchases

There are a few different ways you can recycle computers. But one of the most attractive options for businesses is to trade in old devices with the manufacturer or a retail store when purchasing new ones.

In this case, you can potentially even save some money on your new computer purchases if the old computers are in decent shape. For example, Staples allows you to trade in old tech devices in stores or even send them in by mail. Apple, Dell, Best Buy and more also have similar programs.

The price you get back depends on the condition and type of each device. But in most cases, getting some money back is better than nothing, especially for businesses making expensive new tech purchases.

Access to Refurbished Goods

There are so many tech innovations and improvements making their way into computers on a regular basis. But a lot of the main components used in building those computers remain roughly the same.

So when you recycle computers, you provide raw materials that manufacturers can then use to make refurbished models or even new devices that just use some of those rough materials or recycled components. This can lead to some more affordable options on the market.

Reduced Harmful Waste

When you dispose of computers instead of recycling them, it can do a lot of harm to the environment. Electronic waste is generally dumped into landfills or incinerated. And since computers contain heavy metals like lead and carcinogens, those materials can be extremely detrimental to the air, land, waterways and the environment as a whole.

How to Recycle Computers

Aside from taking your computers to a retail trade-in program or sending them into a manufacturer, you have a few options for recycling computers. You can check with your local recycling center to make sure they accept devices like computers. You can also contact other local computer shops or refurbishing centers to see if they accept devices, even if you don't plan on making new purchases.

Whichever route you decide to take, your computers can do a lot of good when you choose to recycle them. And the materials in them can do a lot of harm to the environment if you just throw them away. So taking the time to trade in or recycle your old computers and other tech devices can be a win-win for your business and the planet.

INFOGRAPHIC: The e-waste problem and how to help

Think of all the electronics in your life: your phone, tv, computer, game systems, USB drives, printers, Blu ray players, even smart devices like switches and home assistants. Now try to picture what happens to all of those things when they die. Over 50 million tons of e-waste are generated every year, and e-waste is nasty stuff. This infographic shows where e-waste ends up, which devices are the biggest culprits and how you can fight the e-waste problem.


HP Inc. Challenges Tech Industry to Come Clean About Electronics Recycling

According to environmental non-profit Basel Action Network (BAN), electronics recycling may not be quite as straightforward as consumers believe. While some electronics are safely dismantled and have their components scrapped or re-used, the recycling process consists of a complex, multi-step supply chain that ends in the developing world, where e-waste is often exported for treatment and oversight is minimal.

BAN indicates that unsafe environmental and labor conditions are common and have a devastating impact on the countries receiving electronics recyclables. Increased transparency, however, could offer a potential solution - and HP Inc. is ready to rise to the challenge.