MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Canadian Company tries to beat Native American and state opposition to mine

Published by MAC on 2002-12-13

California versus Glamis Gold

Glamis Gold, a Canadian junior company, is furious that the state of California has blocked its gold project. It accuses the authorities of imposing "extraordinary" conditions for post-mine rehabilitation which, it says, no company could be expected to meet. In a law suit Glamis claims that these moves are not only "unprecedented" but illegal. In fact the state of California is simply invoking industry "best practice". Glamis also accuses California of contravening a decision by the recently-appointed federal Secretary of the Interior, who has reversed a "no mining" ruling by a previous Secretary and the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

At the core of California's opposition to Glamis is the protected status of land surrounding the prospective mine, and the strident opposition of Native Americans who say their sacred pathway would be violated by the project. Glamis is now threatening to invoke NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) in support of its case, as well as the notorious 1872 US Mining Act which, for a hundred and thirty years, has licensed the virtual give-away of public lands to extractive companies.

Read the Glamis court submission here and make up your own mind about the issues

Eleventh 11th-hour rules require mines be backfilled

By Jake Henshaw, Desert Sun Sacramento Bureau

December 13th 2002

Sacramento - New California open-pit gold mines would have to be backfilled under emergency regulations adopted Thursday, a move that may threaten a controversial proposed mine on sacred Indian land in the desert.

The action by the state Mining and Geology Board was aimed at blocking a proposed gold mine by Glamis Gold Ltd. on federal land near the Fort Yuma Reservation of the Quechan Indian tribe near Winterhaven.

A Glamis official dubbed the emergency step unnecessary because his company is seeking a federal buyout, and industry representatives charged the regulation could make it too expensive for metal mining in California.

"If you approve this regulation, you are essentially approving a ban on metal mining in this state," said Patrick Mitchell, attorney for the California Mining Association.

Board members questioned the extent of the impact, and signaled a willingness to make adjustments when they write the permanent regulation.

Quechan tribal administrator Vernon Smith agreed there is a place for backfilled open pit mines, but not on his tribe's sacred site. Right now, mine reclamation is approved as part of an overall mining plan by local officials, with federal signoff on federal-owned land, and backfilling of finished mines isn't often required.

The mining board's action is the latest development in a longrunning fight over the proposed gold mine. The mine could leave an open pit 4,700 feet by 2,700 feet, and 800 feet deep, along with piles of waste rock a mile long and up to 300 feet high.

The proposed Glamis mine prompted a bill in the last legislative session to protect Indian sacred sites statewide, which was vetoed. A related bill was passed to require backfilling at the Glamis site. It was signed but couldn't take effect because it was tied to the vetoed bill.

A new bill has been introduced this year to allow the signed bill to take effect, and another broader bill to protect sacred sights also may be reintroduced.

Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, whose district includes the disputed mine site and part of the Coachella Valley, asked the board to adopt the emergency regulation so the Legislature would have time to act this year.

Benjamin Spillman of The Desert Sun contributed to this story.

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