MAC/20: Mines and Communities

North America Update

Published by MAC on 2006-04-27


North America Update

27th April 2006

Newmont, the world's second-largest gold mining company (now that Placer Dome and Barrick Gold have merged), may be making shareholders happy with its rising share price, but management was still worried enough about the rising global tide of protest against the company's irresponsible practices to actually move its annual meeting to try (unsuccessfully) to avoid them. It didn't help that several shareholders and their proxies were at the meeting to question CEO Wayne Murdy directly, including a delegation from the Western Shoshone, who contribute massively (if unwillingly) to Newmont's well-being and whose long-standing abuse at the hands of the US government was recently condemned by United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

If massive lead poisoning wasn't enough, the town of Picher, Oklahoma is also at risk of subsidence. On January 31. the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told townspeople that a study of crumbling underground mine shafts showed entire swaths of their community could literally cave in at any time. The town seems to have no choice but to close, and townspeople and businesses can only hope for a buyout from the government.

Coal mining is also in the news as reports emerge that a federal inspector tried to close down a portion of the Alma No. 1 coal mine operated by Aracoma Mining Co. in West Virginia just days before a Jan. 19 fire killed two miners, but was overruled by supervisors. In Sundial, West Virginia, students Marsh Fork Elementary School not only suffer coal dust and chemical contamination emanating from Massey Energy's coal silo just behind the school, but are at risk of being wiped out if the dam above the school holding back over 2 billion gallons of coal waste collapses. Farther west in Arizona, Navajo activists are protesting negotiations between the Navajo Nation and Peabody Coal just as a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council has concluded that Peabody is draining the Navajos' and Hopis' main source of drinking water at a rate that cannot be sustained. In the Northwest, Moose Mountain Member Corp. has received permission to explore for coal in an area near Glacier National Park, just north of the Canada-US border. The permit approval already has some south of the border worried about potential effects to water quality in Montana's Flathead River Basin.

Borrowing a convenient Canadian regulatory fiction, Northern Dynasty claims it can mine the Pebble gold and copper deposit in Alaska without a "net loss" of fish habitat.

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