Sunday, March 8, 2015

There is more to Southwest Oregon mining history than revealed in Earthfix and Jefferson Public Radio article

In an Earthfix article that ran on Jefferson Public Radio (March 5, 2015), a representative of one of the local mining districts ties the advent of early man's use of tools with mining for gold and claims we are all miners. But we don't all murder innocent people who stand in our way, so his theory immediately fails.

The spokesperson for the miners stood on the bridge over the Wild and Scenic Illinois River and pointed to where Josephine Creek enters a little upstream. He noted its significance as the place where white settlers first found gold in Oregon. That was in 1851.

The Earthfix article states that this triggered a gold rush in Southwest Oregon. Writers of Oregon's history will tell you that what happened here after gold was discovered is much more complex and disturbing than this statement implies:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Can you believe mining companies?

Mining companies seem to tell the same story when they're in the promotional, permitting and construction phase of a new mine. They're concerned about the community, about the environment and they just want to provide jobs and local economic benefits.

This is seldom—if ever—how the story ends. Here in the Pacific Northwest, a chromite mine at Coos Bay, Oregon and the Buckhorn Mine in Washington's Okanogan Country are two recent examples. These are stories of broken promises, violations of law and environmental degradation and the companies seem to get away with it.

Chromite mining at South Seven Devils,  October 12, 2012 (Oregon Coast Alliance photo).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Places that will never be the same: Nickel Mountain at Riddle Oregon

The Weather Channel has an interesting photo essay entitled "By Man or Nature, Places That Will Never Be the Same." It's a fascinating study of the huge mine pits and mountain top removals created by man and the holes in the earth created by natural phenomena. The photos include a study of Oregon's own Crater Lake National Park. While not part of the essay Oregon's Nickel Mountain Mine at Riddle is a pretty eye opening scar on the earth (see below) .

One of the many mountain top removal mines in the Southern Appalachians.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

America like Greece? Yes, but not because of debt.

Updated Feb. 23, 2013 — Republican's often claim the United States is on the road to Greece because of the so-called debt crisis.  Paul Krugman speaking to Bill Moyers says "impossible."
Sign protesting gold mine in rural Greek community. Click here to watch the New York Times video.
The irony is that America may actually be on the same road as Greece, but not because of debt, but because (as in Greece) mining companies are stepping up efforts to exploit the earth's minerals, taking advantage of our antiquated mining law and rural communities—the hardest hit the victims of the financial crisis. What you never hear from mine proponents is the high cost of mining to our environment and human health. For example in 2011, metal mining was responsible for 46% of all "reported" toxic releases in the United States alone (see below).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Forest Service left with cleanup at Beal Mountain Mine

January 30, 2013 Forest Service presentation on Beal Mountain Mine
While EPA finds that metal mining leads all other industries in the release of toxics into the environment and the taxpayers (the U.S. Forest Service) is left with the cleanup of the Beal Mountain Mine, the mining industry is lobbying for less regulation, planning an attack on the Clean Water Act and wants Congress of require federal agencies to approve mines faster with less scrutiny.  See E&E News January 29, 2013 (subscription required).

E&E News reporter Manuel Quinones writes:

Friday, January 25, 2013

EPA: Metal mining industry nation's top toxic polluter

On January 16, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the findings of their annual Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). 

The result are no surprise with the metal mining industry, reporting the release of 1.9 billion pounds of toxic chemicals in 2011. 

And its at the top of the list by a wide margin—46% of all reported toxics. See EPA's "toxic releases by industry report." According to Earthworks:
The metal mining industry has been the nation’s largest toxic polluter every year since it was required to report its releases to the TRI in 1997.

Lesons from Wisconsin: Documenting a mine's effects

We want to acknowledge and celebrate local people doing great work to oppose or expose mines in their area.  They provide examples and inspiration for the rest of us.  A new website, by Laura Gauger, is one we can all learn from. It's informative and well documented.

Photo and caption from Flambeau Mine Exposed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stand Up That Mountain

An interview with Jay Leutze, author of Stand Up That Mountain, on the Oct. 5, 2012 Jefferson Exchange brought this inspirational story to our attention. The book's subtitle is: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness Along the Appalachian Trail. The Charlotte Observer writes:
Author/activist Jay Leutze
“Stand Up That Mountain” persuasively details the extremely long odds that small environmental groups face against a system that routinely puts corporations over people, profits over rights. It’s enough to make you want to head for the mountains.

Read more here:
The book chronicles an epic struggle of the "Dog Town Bunch" against a gravel mine on private property and the effort of residents to preserve property rights, their peace, quiet and environment and the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail, "the footpath of the people." It is at once a different and yet similar struggle facing more than a few communities in the West, with hardrock mines on federal lands in their backyards and the primacy of the 1872 Mining Law to contend with. Watch a 2 minute video below:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mass Destruction: open pit mining and its impacts

This book recently came to our attention and we wanted to call it to yours: Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines That Wired America and Scarred the Planet by Timoth J. LeCain, published by Rutgers University Press in 2009.

While primarily about open pit copper mines, Southwest Oregon is being proposed as the location for a nickel strip mine and a new gold mine on the Oregon/California boarder, so understanding the long term impact of mining is important for our citizenry and communities. Here's excerpts from the description of Mass Destruction:

Science and mines

On Southwest Oregon Mining Facts we cite or directly link to government reports, published articles, congressional testimony and other official sources so readers can assess the evidence for themselves. We seek to be a counter to the exaggerations and untruths used by the majority of mining proponents in our area.
From front page of Pebble Science. All photos copyright Michael Melford.
Pebble Science: Objective scientific information on proposed mineral development in Bristol Bay, Alaska is a relatively recent website we find inspirational. We urge those opposing mines to explore Pebble Science for both scientific information, updates on the Pebble Mine proposal and as an example of the need to provide credible information about the effects of mining on the environment.

Mining sand at Heceta Dunes? Citizens not waiting to organize

The incongruities and injustice of 1872 Mining Law in the 21st Century always comes as a surprise to citizens never faced with a mine in their backyard. According to Dina Pavlis in a July 15, 2012 Eugene Register Guard article:
“I was surprised at how easy it is for companies to get ahold of public lands."
Citizens are gearing up to fight the mining of sand at Heceta Dunes on the Siuslaw National Forest along the Oregon Coast before there's even a mining plan.

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area has also been threatened by proposals to mine for silica. 

Comparison of Predicted and Actual Water Quality at Hardrock Mines

Ever wonder why so many mines are Toxic Superfund sites? Even relatively modern mines, such as Summitville in Colorado, pollute and don't live up to the claims of the mining companies or the predictions of federal land managing agencies that approve the mines.

Earthworks provides a report based on 2 years of research comparing mine operator promises vs what actually happened after operations began. It surveys 20 some hardrock mines that underwent federal government analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Frontline's documentary about people struggling to stop a mega mine in one of the world's richest salmon refuges

Preserve it or mine it. This is the question increasingly before us. On July 24, 2012 Frontline aired the documentary Alaska Gold. It's the story of small communities, native peoples and commercial fishermen coming together in an effort to protect the great wealth of Alaska's Bristol Bay and the watersheds that feed it. It can be watched in full online and Frontline's website includes other important information. To watch and read go to Frontline—Alaska Gold.

Bristol Bay's sockeye salmon run. Photo courtesy of Felt Soul's Red Gold website.
While not directly about mining in Southwest Oregon, Frontline provides an instructional look into what it takes for ordinary citizens to stand up to multinational mining corporations, with unlimited resources and there's no assurance they will win.

Southern Oregon strip mine expands

Update September 6, 2012: Oregon Resources Corporation announced it was cutting 31 jobs at its chromite mine in Coos Bay, Oregon. Read the Coos Bay World on the loss of jobs.

According to the Oregon Coast Alliance's July 2012 e-newsletter, Oregon Resources Corporation's chromite strip mine has been allowed to expand without the required reclamation.

Department of Geology and Mineral's May 2012 photo of the chromite mine between Bandon and Coos Bay.
Read more on ORCA's website.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gold mines in Northwest pollute West's most precious resource

Two Canadian owned gold mines in the Northwest have just been fined for water quality violations (details and links below). The judge wrote: "Water is the West's most precious resource." Why is this important here in Southwest Oregon? Water may be our most precious resource but the mining of hardrock minerals is treated as the highest and best use of our public lands under the 1872 Mining Law and the House just passed legislation that would further strengthen the antiquated law and further restrict citizen involvement in mine approvals. See Earthworks on community groups opposed to H.R. 4402.

The pure waters of Southwest Oregon's rivers are more precious than the any metal that can be mined here but that doesn't matter under the 1872 Mining Law. Watch Thomas Dunklin's beautiful video of chinook salmon in the clear waters of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River.
Some of the best water quality in the West is found in Southwest Oregon rivers, which are increasingly under threat from mining.There are now three mines proposed in the Illinois River Valley, a botanical hotspot of the Klamath-Siskiyou Region. These new examples of water quality violations are lessons for what we could face here and the importance of citizen involvement.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

HR 4402: Bad mining bill threatens water resources and disenfranchises communities

Yesterday the House Natural Resources Committee voted to mark-up H.R. 4402, a bad mining bill that would expedite the approval of mining proposals on National Forest and BLM lands at the expense of communities and the taxpayer. Representative Peter DeFazio voted against H.R. 4402 but in a strange vote also departed from all but one of his colleagues to vote against an amendment offered by his Democratic colleague, Mr. Holt from New Jersey. See the roll call report on the vote.

Please email Mr. DeFazio and thank him for his vote against H.R. 4402. Mining companies take the minerals from public lands for free but more often than not leave the taxpayer to clean up the mess and devastated communities in their wake.

Acid mine drainage from the abandoned Formosa Mine near Riddle, Oregon. The site is an EPA Priority Toxic Superfund Site. The taxpayers are footing the bill for the clean-up. USEPA photo.
Mining companies take the minerals from public lands for free but more often than not leave the taxpayer to clean up the mess and devastated communities in their wake.

Retirees join environmentalists in fight over big Arizona copper mine

According to High Country News Resolution Copper has promised 3700 jobs, built hiking trails and funded scholarships and community development but many residents aren't buying it including the conservative retirement community of Queen Valley. They don't want to live next to a tailings pile and are concerned about their water and dust from the mine tailings.

The community of Queen Valley, Arizona. Leslie Bryant Photo.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Nation's largest food retail group wants world's largest wild sockeye salmon fishery protected mining impacts

Washington D.C., March 12th - For the first time ever, the nation’s largest group of food retail companies has spoken out on behalf of protecting Alaska’s Bristol Bay fishery – the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which represents 26,000 retail food stores, and $680 billion in annual revenue -- three-quarters of US retail food store sales -- announced its support for the EPA study currently underway to determine the suitability of large-scale development in Bristol Bay, including the Pebble Mine. Read the full press release at - Earthworks.

Sockeye salmon in Alaska. Ben Knight photo.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mining operations impact coho habitat: The grim reality

A Southwest Oregon miner's second conviction for illegal mining has led to a jail sentence. The Oregonian reports that Clifford Tracy was cited for ignoring the BLM's gold mining procedures at a mining claim on Galice Creek. The creek is a direct tributary of the National Wild and Scenic Rogue River. It would be withdrawn from mineral entry, subject to valid existing right, by Senator Ron Wyden's Rogue Wilderness Area Expansion.

U. S. Department of Justice photo of illegal mining operation on Galice Creek
Click here to read the Oregonian's news brief and here to read the U.S. Attorney's press release.  See the photo essay below of the mining at Galice Creek and description of Mr. Tracy's unlawful mining operation on Sucker Creek.

Read this guest opinion in the New York Times by two fisheries scientists on the need to change the 1872 Mining Law.

Both Galice and Sucker Creek are critical habitat for Southern Oregon Northern California Coast (SONCC) Coho Salmon. View the Draft SONCC Coho Recovery Plan here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mining public lands: Under problem law, there's nothing in it for the taxpayer

On January 9, 2012, the Secretary of Interior (Ken Salazar) signed a decision withdrawing National Forest and BLM lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park from operation of the 1872 Mining Law. The decision does not prohibit uranium mining on valid existing claims but does prohibit the location of new mining claims and requires that existing claims meet all the requirements of law.

The Colorado River as it flows through the Grand Canyon National Park. National Park Service photo.
The issues of mineral withdrawal and mining are important to Southwest Oregon because we have some of the last best rivers in the nation, the highest concentration of rare plants in Oregon and one of the highest in North America and these non-mineral values are threatened by mining. Local mining proponents boast of vastly exaggerated economic benefits at public meetings. They've even convinced a few elected officials. But the evidence tells a different story.