MAC: Mines and Communities

Conservationists Defend Gold Mining Rules

Published by MAC on 2006-10-17

Conservationists Defend Gold Mining Rules

OAKLAND, California, ENS

17th October 2006

Conservation groups filed a submission Monday opposing a Canadian gold mining company's bid for compensation for mining restrictions imposed on mines in California. Glamis Gold is seeking $50 million from the United States through an appeal to a trade panel created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"This is about a foreign-owned company using a NAFTA trade panel to bully the state of California and the United States into letting them destroy public lands," said Margrete Strand Rangnes, with Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program. "This case should be a wake-up call to the Bush administration as it negotiates new trade agreements."

The submission was filed by Sierra Club and Earthworks. The trade panel is considering the case involving a series of open pit gold mines in the California desert roughly 45 miles northeast of El Centro, California. The land is sacred to the Quechan Indians, a Colorado River Indian tribe living near the California-Arizona border. The Clinton administration rejected Glamis's mining plan, citing concerns it would destroy the sacred tribal lands.

California later passed a law requiring open pit mines to be refilled after mining was completed, a process the company argues is too expensive to make the mine profitable. The Bush administration reversed the Clinton administration's decision, but still hasn't issued the necessary permits.

Furthermore, the California reclamation law is still on the books. However, the company claims the California law and the Clinton administration's denial violate NAFTA, which provides special protection for the profits of foreign companies.

'The Glamis project calls for mining and leaching 300 million tons of waste rock and 150 million tons of ore to produce a small amount of gold," said Larry Klaasen of the San Diego Sierra Club chapter. "This would be devastating to the surrounding desert ecosystem."

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