Country: Gulf of Mexico
Company/Operator: BP Exploration and Production Inc.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil spill or the Macondo blowout) began on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect. It began with a well “integrity failure” followed by loss of control of the pressure of the fluid in the well. Water, oil mud, oil, gas and other materials uncontrollably flowed out of the drilling riser and this was followed by a series of two or more explosions and finally a huge fire. Numerous unsuccessful attempts were made to activate the blowout preventer, a device that should have automatically sealed the well in case of such loss of control. Eleven people were killed and it is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. It also negatively impacted the marine ecosystem. After several failed efforts to prevent the flow of oil from entry into the Gulf of Mexico, the well was permanently sealed on September 19, 2010. Reports in early 2012 indicated the well site was still leaking.
The Macondo Project Disaster is termed as an organizational accident. It could have been averted had management adhered to what was termed as the “Best Available and Safest Technology”. The incident exposed the implications of poor governance, lack of accountability and due diligence in the offshore oil and gas industry (inappropriate assessment and management of operations risks); lack of effective systems for checks and balances;the tradeoffs between productivity and protection of workers and finally the results of failing to properly assess the risks in hazardous natural and industrial governance- management environments.
According to the Deepwater Horizon final report, the safety standards laid down by BP were inadequate because the disaster was preventable. The U.S. government gave BP a fine of $20 billion. The explosion also led to the proposal of mandatory standards for oil well infrastructure particularly, safety equipment such as the blowout preventer which failed during the Deepwater Horizon incident. The incident promoted awareness on the need for development of clean energy solutions as opposed to dependence on risky offshore drilling using disruptive technologies.
For more information on the incident read the Final Report by the Deepwater Horizon Study Group 2011 and the Accident Investigation Report by BP
Company/Operator: Aural SA Company
On 30 January 2000, the dam burst of a tailing pond at a gold mine near Baia Mare, North Western Romania resulted in the spill of an estimated 50-100 tonnes of cyanide and heavy metals into Lapus and Somes Rivers which are tributaries of the River Tisza in Hungary. The contaminated water was carried to River Danube which flows through Serbia, Hungary and Romania. The cyanide spill caused extensive damage to the river ecosystem in the three countries and its fauna. About 200 tonnes of fish died due to the high level of cyanide concentration. It also posed a significant threat to human health. Up to 100 people, mostly children were treated after eating contaminated fish.
*Cyanide was used in extraction of gold at the mine operated by the Aural SA Company (a joint venture by an Australian company and the Romanian government).
The health and environmental risks (e.g. river pollution) posed by mining incidents.
The incident increased public awareness of the environmental and safety hazards of the mining industry. The cyanide spill resulted in the amendment of the European Directive on the Control of Major-Accident Hazards (Seveso II Directive) to include a larger number of potentially dangerous activities such as processing activities in mining. This was followed by the EU Directive on the management of waste from extractive industries (Mining Waste Directive).
For more information please read the UNEP/OCHA Assessment Mission Report.
Company/Operator: Soma Mining Company
On 13 May 2014, an explosion occurred at Eynez coal mine in Soma resulting in the death of 301 miners and the injury of countless others. It is recorded as the worst mining disaster in Turkish history. After the explosion, miners were trapped underground and they lacked access to a safety chamber where they could have sheltered from the flames and choking fumes. The owner of the Soma Mining Company, Alp Gurkan, felt that the mine had met the highest standards under the Turkish law and the company had no legal obligation to build safety chambers. Prior to the explosion, miners had complained about the poor safety conditions at the mine and the possibility of dismissal if they complained about the working conditions or got injured.
Lack of incorporation of safety standards in the operation of a mine. The failure of mine employers to take into consideration and further share information on any hazards within an operation.
The Government of Turkey succumbed to pressure and agreed to ratify the ILO Convention concerning Safety and Health in Mines, 1995 (No. 176) on 4 December 2014 following global campaigns after the Soma mining disaster. The ILO Convention recognises the importance of preventing fatalities, injuries or ill health to workers arising from mining operations. It also recognises the need for involvement of workers in the implementation of safety and health measures concerning hazards and risks they face in the mining industry.
For more information, follow the link
The importance of ratifying the ILO Convention No 176 by the Kenyan Government. It goes to the core of the relationship between labour law and extractives. The provisions of the Convention could serve as guidelines for ensuring minimum standards of health and safety are adhered to in the mines and to secure participation of mineworkers. It also obligates employers to provide information to workers, take appropriate measures and further provide adequate protection against risk of accident or injury to health.
Country/ies Affected: Angola, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia
Blood diamonds (also called conflict diamonds, war diamonds, hot diamonds, or red diamonds") is a term used for a diamond mined in a war zone, particularly Africa, and sold to finance insurgencies, and warlords’ activities. The term is used to highlight the negative consequences of the diamond trade in certain areas, or to label an individual diamond as having come from such an area. Diamonds mined during the recent civil wars in Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and other nations have been given the label.
Right after its independence, Angola spiraled out of control. The antagonists and protagonists were mainly the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) fought in a civil war from 1974 to 2001. Efforts to make peace constantly failed. UNITA, captured diamond rich areas while the MPLA controlled the rich Angola’s oil fields. UNITA, through slave labor, extracted the diamonds which it used to finance its war activities while the MPLA used oil to purchase stockpiles of arms to finance its war with UNITA which lasted for 27 years.
The country began to develop a fledgling diamond mining industry in the early 1990s. A coup overthrew the government in 1999, starting a civil war. With the existence of a power vacuum, and militias willing to exploit it, the country became a route for exporting diamonds from Liberia and war-torn Sierra Leone. This financed both government supported militias and opposition militias as the illicit production and trade provided ready funds for purchase of military hardware to fuel the war.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) has suffered numerous looting wars in the 1990s. The diamond rich country has had few periods of peace. These has led to its looting of diamonds which has fueled a civil war that has lasted decades. The loot from the diamond has been used to purchase military hardware and entice others to join the ranks of warring factions.
From 1989 to 2003, Liberia was engaged in a civil war. In 2000, the UN accused Liberian president Charles G. Taylor of supporting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) insurgency in neighboring Sierra Leone with weapons and training in exchange for diamonds. This further led to a spike in demand for the diamonds. Women and children were forced to work in mines. In 2001, the United Nations applied sanctions on the Liberian diamond trade. In August 2003, Taylor stepped down as president and, after being exiled to Nigeria, faced trial in The Hague. On July 21, 2006 he pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity and war crimes, of which he was found guilty in April 2012. On May 30, 2012, he began a 50-year sentence in a high security prison in the United Kingdom. It is reported that international celebrities too enjoyed the proceeds of the Blood Diamonds from Liberia.
It was after gaining its independence did diamond smuggling become a political problem as well as an economic one. The country after spiraling out of control, diamonds became a key factor in determining strategic victories. Throughout the nine-year civil war, fighting concentrated in and around the diamond districts. Since the civil war began, Sierra Leone has suffered complete desolation. It is wholly dependent on outside support from Great Britain, Nigeria and South Africa's security forces. Liberia, through its president, influenced the blood diamond trade by exchanging weapons for diamonds.
Following the bloodshed, loss of life, negative exploitation of Africa’s’ diamonds from the Blood Diamond activities, the United Nations decided to act. This resulted in the establishment of the Kimberly Proceed Certification Schemein 2003 to prevent "conflict diamonds" from entering the mainstream rough diamond market by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/56 following recommendations in the Fowler Report. The process was set up to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.
More on the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme and the Fowler Report detailing dealings in Africa’s Blood Diamonds can be found on this Link
**Kenya is not listed as one of the Participants of the Kimberley Process although it is reported to have applied for certification in March 2009. This means that rough diamonds can currently not be exported from Kenya to other participant countries.