If you think things could get any more troubling in Congress, think again.
The House approved a bill (H.R. 4402) last week to exempt the mining industry from environmental review. Cloaked as a bill about increasing production of strategic minerals, this legislation is actually about ignoring the serious impacts that mining can have on public health, clean water and taxpayers.
It will exclude mines from one of our most important environmental laws that requires a thorough environmental impact study.
The story of the Western Shoshone is a long lesson in the ways that law can fail indigenous people threatened by mineral interests. The ancestral territory of this native American people encompasses an area stretching from southern Idaho, through eastern Nevada, to the Mojave Desert of California. Underneath this swath of over 240 thousand square kilometers (over 60 million acres) lie billions of dollars worth of gold. Nearly 10 percent of the world's gold production -- and 64 percent of US production -- comes from Western Shoshone land.
October 2, Washington, D.C. -- New research released today finds that the mining royalty methodology used by Nevada and Alaska, if adopted by the federal government, would neither pay taxpayers a fair return nor adequately fund the $50 billion abandoned mine cleanup bill facing all Americans. Published by the mining and energy watchdog group EARTHWORKS, A Hardrock Royalty: case studies and industry norms, is being released the same day the Energy and Minerals Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee hears testimony regarding the royalty provisions of 1872 Mining Law reform.
Although in public statements mining companies and industry trade associations have expressed support for a royalty, to date the hardrock mining industry has never paid a royalty on the metals they take from public lands. Since 1872, when the law that governs mining on public lands was written, at least $245 billion worth of metals like gold, silver, copper, and uranium have been mined with no return to the taxpayer.
Reno, NV (06/11) - New information reveals that the Queenstake's Jerritt Canyon Mine in northern Nevada is releasing massive unreported amounts of mercury air pollution. The new emissions data, obtained from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP), indicates that the mine may have released as much as 6,000-8,000 pounds of mercury air pollution in 2005 and 2006, yet it reported only 300-400 pounds to state and federal agencies for those years.
"It's a staggering amount of mercury, and a tremendous threat to the health and wellbeing of Nevada families," said Dan Randolph of Great Basin Mine Watch.
Feb 14, Reno, NV -- A new University of Nevada report entitled Mercury Air Concentrations in Northern Nevada documents startlingly high mercury concentrations in the air around a number of northern Nevada gold mines.
The highest mercury concentrations in the air were measured at three mines: the Marigold Mine (3120 ng/m3), the Coeur Rochester Mine (2326 ng/m3), and the Twin Creeks Mine (694 ng/m3) -- mercury concentrations that were over 600, 400 and 100 times that of normal background conditions (5 ng/m3), respectively. According to the report, "These concentrations were much higher than expected and approach concentrations where impacts to worker health and safety, particularly to women of child bearing age, should be assessed." In two cases (Coeur and Marigold), the highest concentrations were measured in the employee parking lots.
Jan 29, Reno, Nevada -- "Exposure to mercury causes learning disabilities and memory loss. Not to mention memory loss," warns a new Reno billboard unveiled today by a coalition of conservation and native community groups concerned that mercury pollution from gold and silver mines is a public health risk. The groups, Great Basin Mine Watch, Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Earthworks, last month urged the State of Nevada to determine the need for fish consumption advisories for northeastern Nevada waterways due to mercury from Nevada's mines.