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For immediate release:  Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Wahington Post Ad Challenges Forest Service to Protect Cabinet Mountain Wilderness Area from Proposed Silver Mine


  • Steve D'Esposito, EARTHWORKS, Tel. 202-887-0371, Cell 202-255-2717
  • Lauren Pagel, EARTHWORKS, 202-887-1872 x207
  • Mary Mitchell, Rock Creek Alliance, Tel. 208 265-8272, Cell 208-290-8228

WASHINGTON, DC Today, Tiffany & Co., one of the leading jewelry companies in the world, issued a call for protection of an important wilderness area threatened by a silver mine as well as reform of the outdated U.S. mining law regulating the industry supplying it with much of the gold, silver and platinum for its jewelry. 

The jewelry company made its statement in an open letter to the Forest Service in today's Washington Post.  Tiffany & Co. states that the “opponents fears are justified” in regard to the controversial Rock Creek silver and copper mine in a pristine Wilderness Area in Montana, a poster child example of why the 1872 Mining Law badly needs updating.  This is the first time that a major jewelry company has taken such a highly visible stance calling for reforms to the main U.S. law regulating mining, and could be an early sign of fears of consumer backlash from the destructive impacts of mining on the part of retailers of jewelry and high-tech products that use gold, silver and other metals.

“We applaud the leadership, vision and business sensibility of Tiffany & Co. on this issue,” said Stephen D'Esposito, President of EARTHWORKS. “The business community is poised to take a leadership position and recognizes that mining does not have to be done at the expense of communities and the environment and that there are some special places that should never be mined.”

In his letter to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, Michael Kowalski, the Chairman and CEO of Tiffany & Co., called for the preservation of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness Area and identified the 1872 Mining Law as the archaic statute that encourages mining in inappropriate areas. If constructed, the Rock Creek mine would tunnel under the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness Area of the Kootenai National Forest, just upstream from Idaho's famous Lake Pend Oreille. Some 60 Idaho panhandle businesses, as well as county commissioners and city council members, oppose the Rock Creek Mine.

Under the authority of the 1872 Mining Law, the Forest Service claimed that they had no choice but to allow the gigantic mine to tunnel underneath a Wilderness Area, harm endangered grizzly bears and pollute precious water resources.  Due to weak, outdated, and ineffective laws and regulations, mining pollution, from both historic and modern mines, is a growing environmental problem.  Mining has led to the pollution of more than 40 percent of the stream-reaches of headwaters of Western watersheds, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and has resulted in an estimated 500,000 abandoned mines in the United States. The Rock Creek Mine would discharge up to three million gallons of waste water a day into the Clark Fork River.

“The fact that the Forest Service was compelled to approve the Rock Creek mine plan is a classic example of all that is outdated and wrong with the 1872 Mining Law,” said D'Esposito. “This should be a wake-up call for other retailers and for the mining industry.  As the facts begin to surface about the abuses allowed by the 1872 Mining Law the public is growing restless.  We look forward to working with Tiffany & Co. and other like-minded businesses to promote meaningful reforms that protect communities, special places, and valuable western water resources.”

The Rock Creek Mine, though currently approved for operation by the Forest Service, is still facing legal challenges by local community groups and conservation organizations.

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