MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Us Update

Published by MAC on 2007-05-25


US update

25th May 2007

In yet another potentially successful move to reverse the anti-environment and pro-business (including pro-mining) decisions of the Bush regime, a bi-partisan group of legislators is set to re-affirm the "roadless" rule over nearly 60 million acres of national forest.

Two victories have recently been secured by those opposing reckless mining. Coeur d'Alene won't be allowed to dump waste rock into an alpine lake. (It's a decision which should reverberate across the border where recent legislation permits similar disposal.) Another company has been prevented from converting an old gold mine into a "new" rock quarry; there are suspicions that it may, in fact, be after residual gold.

Two months ago, we reported that the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was refusing to investigate alleged links between gold mining in Nevada (one of the world's biggest mining "hotspots") and increases in mercury pollution. Now a conservation organisation in neighbouring Idaho accuses Queenstake Resources of subversively leaking mercury into the air in order to reduce its recorded emissions .

Although it's not widely known, as well as being the world's biggest mining company, BHPBilliton is also a major exploiter of oil and gas. Now, the company's proposal to build a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of California - "larger than an aircraft carrier and standing taller than the Queen Mary" - has been rejected by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For many years, Rio Tinto's Bingham Canyon copper-gold mining operations in Utah (managed by wholly-owned Kennecott) have bequeathed a legacy of arsenic, lead, sulphates and other toxic pollutants to the communities surrounding this vast mine. (It's the world's biggest single open-pit excavated by human beings.) Despite the company's major "clean-up" programme, citizens of one of these communities claim that Rio Tinto is concealing basic facts about the nature of the dangers they confront.

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