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1872 Mining Law Fact #11

Making the U.S. industry rated most toxic by the EPA into an environmental benefactor would seem to require some artful sleight-of-hand. But Phelps Dodge, the nation's biggest copper mining company, claims to work this kind of magic all the time.

On lands purchased under cover of the 1872 Mining Law, Phelps Dodge has released enough toxic pollution from its mines to kill hundreds of birds, contaminate billions of gallons of groundwater and destroy miles of downstream creeks. Phelps Dodge's reclamation plans for three New Mexico copper mines are so inadequate that they violate state law, potentially pushing onto taxpayers clean-up costs exceeding $700 million.

In fact, Phelps Dodge pushed a bill this year in New Mexico's state legislature to exempt huge open-pit mines from any reclamation requirements or environmental standards whatsoever.

Yet Phelps Dodge's website boasts that it has “established sound environmental policies” and a commitment to “minimizing the impact of our business on the environment.” Sounds like a lot of hocus pocus.