The Brumadinho disaster remains one of the greatest mining tragedies in recent years, with a death toll in the hundreds and total damages in the billions of dollars. The fallout of the accident has been equally dramatic, with Vale trying to make amends for the damage for over three years now, and questions being raised across the mining industry regarding the safeguards being put in place at some of the industry’s biggest operations.

Recently, a new wrinkle was added to the Brumadinho story. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a lawsuit against Vale, alleging that it knew of potential safety breaches at its mines prior to the dam, and that they contributed to the scale of the ultimate disaster. The involvement of a foreign government office – and one focused on trade, rather than humanitarian causes – is an unexpected step, and could set a new precedent for actors working with such disasters, where a greater range of companies and organisations feel obliged to get involved in some of the mining industry’s biggest incidents.

Elsewhere, we consider the present and future of some of the world’s most in-demand commodities, from gold and nickel to critical minerals aligned with various national interests. With resources becoming increasingly scarce, but demand for them higher than ever, what can the world’s miners do to balance the forces of supply and demand as they continue to pull in opposite directions?

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In this issue

A diplomatic incident: inside the US lawsuit against Vale over Brumadinho

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a lawsuit against Vale. Giles Crosse asks if this could this set a precedent for the international mining industry?

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Promise and problems at the Donlin Gold mine

Barrick and Novagold’s Donlin Gold mine could produce over a million ounces of gold a year, if it can get past the barrier of swelling local opposition. Dominic Hale investigates the proposed mine and challenges to its construction.

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No sacrifices: inside nickel mining in the Philippines

The Philippines could become a significant player in the global nickel industry after a moratorium on new mining was lifted last year. Jason Mitchell investigates the Philippines’ nickel potential, and assesses the environmental impacts of the changes.

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Growing the supply base of lithium

With lithium demand continuing to rise, new supply centres must be developed. Zachary Skidmore looks into potential areas of growth.

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Through the hourglass: Propeller Aero on sand mining

JP Casey speaks to Richie Hadfield of Propeller Aero about the challenges facing sand miners, and how drones can aid in the mining of this key mineral.

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Europe and the critical metals supply gap

Europe is set on course to drastically change the nature of its energy generation over the next two decades. Zachary Skidmore investigates a growing supply gap of the critical metals needed to build clean renewable technology that could put these aims at risk.

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Next issue: artisanal mining

Artisanal and small-scale mining remains a key component of the global mining industry, and a cornerstone of many of the local communities where it is most often practiced. A new South African law could finally help formalise the sector, but will this bring much-needed safety and taxation oversight, or just push the cost and challenges of small-scale mining onto established industry actors?