MAC: Mines and Communities

US update

Published by MAC on 2007-05-08

US update

8th May 2007

UN Asked To Take Stand Against Destructive Coal Mining

By Neil Relyea

8th May 2007

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Environmental groups are calling on the United Nations to take a stand against what they call ecologically destructive coal mining practices in Appalachia. The groups from Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky say that state and local governments aren't paying attention to their cause.

So today they went before the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, which is holding its annual session through Saturday.

The delegation asked the commission to shun coal in favor of policies promoting renewable energy and cuts in fossil fuel consumption.

The delegation told reporters outside the UN that coal extraction has destroyed more than a million acres of forests, 500 mountains and 1,000 miles of streams in recent years in Appalachia.

Officials seek to ID old lead mining sites for cleanup


5th May 2007

Destiny Miller loves picking flowers in her family's backyard, climbing on her swing set and lobbing rocks into the creek that flows behind her home.

But something in the rambunctious 3-year-old's small world has been threatening her health. Nearly a year and a half ago, her parents learned that Destiny had lead poisoning.

Last fall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told the Millers that soil in their 1 1/2-acre yard was contaminated with lead. The agency ordered the tainted dirt dug up and hauled away.

Since 2005, hundreds of families across rural Washington County — the Millers included — have learned that they were exposed to contaminated soil or water because of mining that once took place here.

State geologists have identified more than 9,000 places in 38 counties where lead, barite, zinc and copper once were found, and in most cases mined. By the end of next year, state and federal regulators hope to know how many more small mining sites within Missouri will require further cleanup.

In Washington County alone, federal regulators plan to spend up to $8.5 million on cleanup. So far, 213 contaminated yards here are targeted for soil removal, and bottled drinking water is being delivered to 244 homes served by private wells that contain elevated levels of lead and other contaminants.

Destiny's mother, Kirsten Goff Miller, 33, had no clue that lead mining waste posed a danger so close to her home. Now she waits for Destiny's lead readings to drop to safe levels.

"I think about it every day," Kirsten Miller said. "And wonder why it is taking so long. I just don't understand."

Instead of towering mountains of gravelly chat or dusty tailings piles that marked many industrial lead mines in southern Missouri, Washington County is largely dotted by shallow pits and small waste piles that serve as geologic fingerprints of early surface mining.

Some of the state's earliest lead mining happened here nearly three centuries ago.

The trail of early lead mines has led to other less-likely regions of the state — including sites near Lake of the Ozarks and Springfield — where the mining heritage isn't so established.

Gene Gunn, Superfund branch chief at the EPA's regional office in Kansas City, Kan., said the region focused about half its soil-removal resources on cleanup projects such as Washington County's.

In this case, the tainted dirt will be hauled to a former Doe Run Co. mine outside of Potosi, where it will cover an old tailings pile.

Finding all the pieces

For the past few years, Cheryl Seeger has done some sleuthing as part of a joint state-EPA project to determine the extent of lead mining in Missouri.

Seeger, a state geologist, has reviewed field notes jotted down more than a century ago, in some cases, along with old manuscripts and maps — anything that might yield clues to where lead and other metallic minerals were once mined.

"I view it as a giant jigsaw puzzle," said Seeger, who is based in Rolla. "You have a bunch of different pieces — field notebooks ... volumes ... maps. You are taking all those pieces and trying to put them all together."

Suspected sites are verified by Seeger's colleagues in the field.

In Washington County, the number of known places where lead and barite were found and mined has more than quadrupled. The state's database now shows 1,431 sites in the county, which has been separated into the Potosi, Old Mines and Richwoods areas.

Scarring from old mining operations has been found in neighboring Jefferson County, although it's not nearly so extensive.

Once the agencies know where to look, soil and water samples are gathered and tested for signs of lead contamination.

Mined lead ore becomes more hazardous to people after it has been exposed to the elements over time and oxidizes. Once it reaches the soil, Seeger said, lead particles can be washed through underground crevices and leach into water supplies.

Raw lead ore was originally fed into log furnaces or crude smelters, where it was molded and shipped to France. Old processing sites have contributed to Washington County contamination. Across Missouri, there are 147 former lead and zinc smelter sites.

The EPA is trying to identify companies and other parties that may have played a role in Washington County mining over the years. But agency officials acknowledge that some may be long gone. Some early miners were simply farmers trying to earn a little extra money mining surface lead on their land.

Potosi Mayor T.R. Dudley said cleaning up historic mine waste was a good thing. But in a county where unemployment is just above 10 percent, it is hard to watch so much money going toward an activity that won't stimulate the local economy.

"I don't want to be flip about it," Dudley said. "Elevated levels are elevated levels. If there is federal money to (replace) that, by all means we should tap into it."

The impact hits home

Destiny Miller bravely extends her arm every few months to have her blood drawn and tested for lead at the Washington County Health Department in Potosi.

Despite the yard cleanup, a dietary regimen that includes multivitamins with iron, and assurances the Millers' water and house are lead-free, Destiny's blood tests continue to show elevated levels of lead.

Miller and her husband, Steve Miller, learned of the problem when they sought to enroll Destiny in a private day-care center in October 2005. One of the requirements was that children be screened for lead poisoning.

Kirsten Miller said she was shocked to learn that her otherwise healthy daughter had 17 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Ten micrograms is the federal threshold for heightened concern, and Destiny's blood-lead level still hovers above that.

The finding triggered testing of the family's mobile home, yard and water. The Millers say the only place lead was found was in their yard. The Millers live near a former mining area, and a local historian told them there once was a smelter on the property.

Lorena Locke, a health educator at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the prevalence of young Washington County children with elevated levels of lead in their blood was more than twice the state average last year. Testing is voluntary, and only about one-quarter of children under age 6 in the county have been tested.

Health studies conducted on former mining sites in Jasper and St. Francois counties show there is a link between mine waste and elevated levels of lead in children.

Children are most susceptible to the harmful effects of lead poisoning. It can impair intelligence, slow growth and cause behavioral problems.

Kirsten Miller wonders whether lead is affecting her daughter's behavior.

"I guess I do have concerns because she is very hyperactive," she said. "She doesn't sit still. She is always into stuff."

Miller said the family's doctor believed Destiny had attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder but didn't think lead was a factor. Miller isn't so sure.

Bobbie Casner, a mother of two, has worried since learning she lives in a "hot zone" for lead contamination. Not far from her home is a boulder marking Firmin Desloge Park "in memory of the mining families of the area."

Bottled drinking water is now delivered to the three-bedroom mobile home Casner rents on North Terk Road near Potosi. Traces of lead were found in the well.

Everybody — even the family's pets — drinks the bottled water, which has been delivered since January.

The whole family has had blood tests, Casner said, and nobody was above the threshold for lead poisoning.

Still, she said, "We're going to do everything possible to get out of here. I mean, nobody has any business being up here."

Mandatory U.S. Greenhouse Gas Cap Wins New Corporate Supporters


8th May 2007

The group of large corporations calling on the federal government to immediately enact mandatory national legislation to cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions today doubled its membership. Major greenhouse gas emitters such as automotive, oil and chemical companies are among the new members of the U.S. Climate Change Partnership.

Twelve new companies joined the original members of the partnership, known as USCAP, bringing the number of corporate partners to 22.

These companies are pledging to support national legislation to reduce America's emission of greenhouse gases by 60 to 80 percent by 2050. To date, the Bush administration has declined to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, CO2. The new members include American International Group, Alcan, Boston Scientific, ConocoPhillips, Deere & Company, The Dow Chemical Company, General Motors Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Marsh, PepsiCo, Shell, and Siemens.

They join the original group of corporations that formed USCAP in January - Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, Florida Power & Light, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, Pacific Gas & Electric, and PNM Resources.

In calling for effective climate policy, the companies join the four original USCAP nonprofit partners - Environmental Defense, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the World Resources Institute - along with two new groups, The Nature Conservancy and National Wildlife Federation.

"GM is very pleased to join USCAP to proactively address the concerns posed by climate change and applauds its members for recognizing the important role that technology can play in achieving an economy-wide solution," said Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of General Motors. "A central element as we see it is energy diversity – being able to offer consumers vehicles that can be powered by many different energy sources and advanced propulsion systems to help displace petroleum and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Wagoner said.

With its new members, USCAP companies now have total revenues of $1.7 trillion, a collective workforce of more than two million people and operations in all 50 states.

They also have a combined market capitalization of more than $1.9 trillion. Market capitalization, or market cap, is derived from a company's current stock price per share times the total number of shares outstanding.

The nongovernmental organizations have more than two million members worldwide, and represent America's environmental interests and its conservation traditions.

"Climate change will be the biggest threat by far to our mission of protecting nature and to the many investments in lands and waters we have made over the past 60 years," said Steve McCormick, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy.

"One of The Nature Conservancy's goals," he explained, "is to ensure that the important role intact forests and other ecosystems play in mitigating climate change is recognized as a vital part of any policy framework developed to address this critical challenge."

Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, called USCAP "the latest demonstration that global warming is a top priority in mainstream America."

"Leaders of business in America are responsible to shareholders, employees and customers across every shade of American political opinion," said Schweiger. "They cannot afford to made decisions on the future of their enterprises through any partisan ideological lens."

USCAP partners support six recommendations for national action: Account for the global dimensions of climate change – U.S. leadership is essential for establishing an equitable and effective international policy framework for robust action on climate

Recognize the importance of technology – The cost-effective deployment of existing energy efficient technologies should be a priority

Be environmentally effective – mandatory requirements and incentives must be stringent enough to achieve necessary emissions reductions

Create economic opportunity and advantage – a climate protection program must use the power of the market to establish clear targets and timeframes

Be fair – Solutions must account for the disproportionate impact of both global warming and emissions reductions on some economic sectors, geographic regions and income groups

Encourage early action – Prior to the effective date of mandatory pollution limits, every reasonable effort should be made to reduce emissions

The group recommends that Congress provide leadership and establish short-term and mid-term emission reduction targets for the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, including large stationary sources and transportation, and energy use in commercial and residential buildings.

USCAP's "Call to Action" recommends that Congress establish mandatory emission targets to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas levels by 10 to 30 percent below today's levels within 15 years, and by 60 to 80 percent by 2050.

A national program to accelerate technology research, development and deployment is also recommended along with approaches to encourage action by other countries, including those in the developing world, as the group recognizes that "ultimately the solution must be global."

These principles and recommendations are the result of a shared goal of slowing, stopping and reversing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time reasonably achievable, the enlarged group said in a joint statement today.

Top executives from USCAP companies have driven this effort, and new members were chosen carefully to preserve a high-level consensus approach, they said.

Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Jeroen van der Veer displayed that consensus today, writing in the introduction to the company's newly released Sustainability Report 2006, "I have said repeatedly that, for us, the debate about CO2's impact on the climate is over. I am pleased at how our people are responding to my call to find ways to mitigate CO2 impacts from fossil fuels. Our focus is on what we can do to reduce CO2 emissions. We are determined to find better, lower-cost ways to capture and store CO2."

The other oil company on USCAP's expanded membership roster is ConocoPhilips. "We recognize that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate," said chairman and CEO Jim Mulva. "While we believe no one entity can alone address the environmental, economic and technological issues inherent in any solution, ConocoPhillips will show leadership in finding pragmatic and sustainable solutions."

Mulva says ConocoPhilips is building the potential long-term cost of carbon into its capital spending plans for each of its major projects around the world and improving energy efficiency in its facilities, including a 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency at its U.S. refineries by 2012. In addition, the company is developing internal targets for greenhouse gas emissions from its operations.

As Congress starts to examine the issue of climate change, the group's expansion can be viewed as a catalyst for action.

"With this lineup of companies and environmental groups endorsing it, a carbon cap is clearly the consensus solution to climate change," said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, who was active in the formation of USCAP.

"With cap and trade, we've found the center," Krupp said, "environmental groups and businesses can embrace because it guarantees results for the climate while freeing companies to hunt for innovative, least-cost ways to lower emissions."


Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info