MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Us Update

Published by MAC on 2007-03-23


US update

23rd March 2007

Arsenic and mercury emissions from Nevada mining may be poisoning people and wildlife - but the US environmental protection agency (EPA) is refusing to investigate the latest allegations.

What is the EPA's justification for this dereliction of duty? The agency says it "does not have reason to believe the environmental health risks or safety risks addressed by this action present a disproportionate risk to children."

In the face of such circular argumentation, residents of Crescent Valley - especially Western Shoshone - continue to suffer from nausea, diarrhea and headaches, without knowing whether these are connected with arsenic ingestion.

Last year, concerns were also expressed that mining in Nevada was also causing unacceptably high levels of airbourne mercury to fall on neighbouring states and possibly within Nevada itself. A new study has confirmed these risks but - once again - the EPA has said it sees no need to carry out further studies to test the emissions.

The biggest mining companies operating in Crescent Valley are Canada's Barrick-Placer and UK Rio Tinto (through its 100%-owned Kennecott); and, in Nevada as a whole, Newmont Mining.

A US court has ruled that county governments can ban maintain their bans on t he use of cyanide in gold mining; while a judge has blocked four"mountaintop mining" permits given to Massey Energy.

It sounds good on paper but yet another behest by industry to cut back on US carbon dioxide emissions is certainly not going to see the culprits cutting off their noses to spite their own faces. For example, Merrill Lynch's World Mining Trust plc invests in the world's major coal producers (Peabody, Rio Tinto, BHPBilliton, Anglo American, Xstrata).

Encouraging even more coal exploitation is the unproven assumption that its carbon content can and will be safely buried, is part of the strategy.

A number of prominent environmental groups in the US have started doing deals with US energy utilities and their financial backers to limit their building of coal-fired plants . Now the Sierra Club (no slouch when it comes criticising mining projects) has endorsed a new coal-fired power station. Its owner isn't even promising to reduce its use of coal, but intends instead to use so-called "carbon offsets" (which many critics would claim are actually nothing of the kind).

At least one environmental group has broken ranks with this growing consensus. Last week, Rainforest Action Network (RAB) published and advertisement in the New York Times calling on JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch to halt all their investments in coal. (see photo below).

Further material has been offered to the American public that the Bush regime deliberately suppressed evidence which didn't concur with its policy to deny the true extent of negative climate change.

The most reviled chairman of any mining company anywhere - James Moffett of Freeport - has secured the chairmanship of what is now the world's biggest publicly-listed copper company, after the finally-concluded merger between Freeport and Phelps Dodge.

Moffett once notoriously claimed that the massive environmental degradation, caused by dumping more wastes into a river/estuarine system than any other mining operation on the planet, was the equivalent of "me pissing in the Arafura sea."

Freeport and its partner Rio Tinto have, through their operations in West Papua, committed just about every crime in the book

And now the primo genitur of these crimes and disasters takes the helm over operations in the US, Chile, Peru, DR Congo and elsewhere.

Finally, we offer our Spanish readers an account of the highly dubious relationship between senator Al Gore and zinc mining in his home state of Tennessee.

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