World’s largest gold mines closed due to pollution, fires and landslides
U.S. mines have closed in six countries because of dangerous levels of pollutants, fires, and landsliding, including in Canada, the world’s biggest gold producer.
The closures come just months after a massive fire at a mine in Peru’s western Apurimac region killed more than 150 people, and prompted authorities to ban mining operations in the region.
Officials said Tuesday that three mines in Peru and Colombia have closed because of the contamination of the mines with mercury, lead and arsenic.
Authorities said the mines closed in Peru because of toxic levels of mercury in the air, which was found in groundwater and soil.
The U.N. Environment Programme has estimated the contamination is equivalent to one third of a million pounds of mercury annually in the Apurimsac area.
In Colombia, a mine owned by Peru’s state-run company, Meteo, shut down after its owner’s wife became ill, according to a report from the national news agency, Televisa.
A mine owned in the eastern city of Bogota was closed by the state of San Juan de Uyuni because of mercury contamination, according a report by the city’s health department.
“The health department of the Colombian city of Santa Marta announced on Tuesday that it will close its mines due to mercury contamination due to the fire and earthquakes,” the city health department said in a statement.
“It is important to emphasize that this is not an issue with mercury alone, but the mercury of mercury pollution and the harmful effects on our environment.”
The mine in Bogota that shut down on Tuesday is owned by the same company that owns the mine in Uyunisac, according the local media.
Brazilian miners and their workers are battling the spread of mercury-related infections, including pneumonia, tuberculosis and emphysema, in the Amazon, where more than 10,000 people have died from mercury-linked respiratory problems in the past year.
On Monday, Brazilian officials said they have found mercury in samples from five miners who died in a fire that destroyed an industrial mill in the western state of Paraná, killing at least one worker.
The fire was also reported to have killed four others.
In Colombia and Peru, officials said mercury contamination is a growing concern, as the government is struggling to contain its massive gold output that has contributed to a rapid rise in the cost of living.
Many workers have stopped working to avoid the health risks and the mining companies have refused to return the jobs, which has led to a crisis in many parts of the country.