|Updated: 22Dec., 2006|
By Charles Kubach, Mine Engineer, Mine-Engineer.Com
2 Nov, 2007
Mining is California's Greatest Threat?
After reading a article in the Liberal Agenda Times (LA Times) entitled "Mining Claims seen as threat", I was appalled at the author's complete lack of knowledge and their willingness to push the left winged eco-nuts radical propaganda as facts. The article begins with the claim that 21,300 mining claims have been staked within 10 miles of California's national parks". There is a good reason for this. For years, the government, which owns most of the land in the West, has, at the encouragement of the California senators and congressmen, taken thousands of square miles of "dual use" land and made it off limits to any use, other than walking across. The Eco Nuts were ecstatic with each huge parcel of public land added to their rattlesnake preserve. Dual use means that business use and recreational use of the land can co-exist on public land, and has been the norm for many years for all but the most sensitive public land. The land, after all, is owned by all citizens of the United States, not just the Environmental Organizations.
One of my claims in CA, 1 mile from wildrness
In California, where their ridiculous laws have driven most manufacturing from this state, I can understand their complete lack of understanding about what business requires to thrive. It is definitely not unending taxes, sky high fees for every possible action and even more reams of ridiculous legislation designed to penalize any person or company seeking to produce something that the society, economy and humanity require to exist and, hopefully, exist at a better level tomorrow than they do today.
Another CA claim, adjacent to wilderness
The article cited a expert, a tree hugger attorney named Dusty Horwitt, JD, of the Environmental Working Group. His organization is located in Washington DC, and his numerous ignorant papers published to slander and demonize every mining enterprise on the planet are riddled with mis-information, and delusional portraits of industry. To illustrate Mr. Horwitt (JD)'s competence as an "expert" on the subject, he recently testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the evils of mining. Mr Horwitt (JD) used the old Summitville Gold Mine, located in Rio Grande County, Colorado as the basis of his argument against any mining. He claimed in his "expert testimony" that "our leading source of toxic pollution - is often not contained at the site of the mine. In Summitville, Colorado in 1992 a spill of cyanide and heavy metal-laden water killed some 20 miles of the Alamosa River. "
Sounds bad, right, it was intended to demonize the mining industry. But if one knows just a little science and chemistry, examines the facts, one would discover that, according to a study conducted by the US Geological Survey, "Rocks in the Summitville area were millions of years ago subjected to acid-sulfate alteration, which causes the streams that drain the area to be naturally acidic and naturally high in metals. The very names of nearby creeks are evidence of poor natural water quality: Iron Creek, Alum Creek, and Bitter Creek. Mining at Summitville, by exposing more rock surface to weathering, increased acidity and concentrations of dissolved metals in runoff from the mine area."
Yes, it appears that nature deposited massive sulfides in the area and it has had acidic and metal laden runoff for millions of years. But this is just the beginning or Mr. Howritt (JD)'s expert mis-information. He claimed that cyanide, from the Summitville Mine, in the water killed 20 miles of life in the Alamosa River. The same USGS study revealed that the drainage from the Summitville Mine had a pH of 3. This means that it was highly acidic. Now a high school chemistry student could tell Mr. Horwitt (JD), the tree hugger expert on mining, that at a pH of 3, any cyanide in the water had instantly become a gas, hydrogen cyanide, and no longer resided in the water to kill wildlife, or anything else. Facts, however, never fit into the Radical Environmentalist's delusional world. They crate their own illusionary world and sell it to a gullible public (in this case a gullible congress) as scientific facts and reality.
To further examine the Summitville Consolidated Mining Company's operation, one would discover that it began operation in 1984, not 1992. It was a heap leach gold operation, which meant that they mined the low grade sulfide ore from a open pit, then constructed a heap leach to spray a very dilute (0.02%) cyanide-water solution to slowly dissolve the gold contained in the ore. In 1991, the operation was served with a cease and desist order, because water quality running off from the mine contained high levels of metals. A leaky leach pad liner was blamed for this. The fact that for millions of years, the area produced metal, acidic runoff into the surrounding streams, was totally ignored by the EPA. After all they would look foolish issuing a cease and desist order against nature, but the mining company was a handy whipping boy, of which they suffocated with their newly found governmental powers. The EPA was in it's infancy in 1984, but it had been steadily growing and increasing it's power since Richard Nixon started it in the early 1970's.
Likewise, heap leach mining was also in it's infancy, since it was just in the late 1970s that the now defunct US Bureau of Mines developed the process to recover gold from very low grade ores that were previously uneconomical to mine. To use this mine as an example of all mining or even gold mining shows just how "expert" Mr. Horwitt (JD)'s opinions are. Worthless.
As a mining professional, and mining engineer, I would have to say that any company heap leaching a sulfide gold deposit was not very bright, either. The typical recovery from cyanide leaching sulfide deposits is about 30%, leaving 70% fo the gold in the rock. Not a good plan.
Today's gold mining company would have a much better designed heap leach pad, with allowances made by correctly utilizing the scientific principles of hydrology, to correctly size the ponds to hold all cyanide and gold bearing liquid, along with any projected runoff due to rainfall. This is standard practice today. Not that Mr. Horwitt (JD), the Eco Mining Expert would know this. Also, modern gold operations using a heap leach method would have numerous monitoring wells, strategically placed, to detect the slightest trace of cyanide or metals from the leach ponds. They do this for two reasons, first they do not want to pollute any surrounding streams or the water table and second, this liquid contains their gold, and they want to recover it, not drain it into a stream. They would also have two linings, in case one would rupture, the second lining would prevent any runoff into the ground. However, in the unlikely event that both linings failed and allowed some liquid to seep out, it would be immediately detected in the monitoring wells, and a repair would be conducted. This could include many methods, including pumping a grout into the ground to seal off the leach pad from the underlying rock. Pretty safe and guarantees, with a high degree of confidence, that no leakage would occur from the leach pad.
All of this 'scientific stuff' is ignored by the Environmental Crusaders, though,as they have their own agenda, which is to raise money, instill unfounded fear into the public and generate more "protected lands" in their (our) federal lands. We would never surrender our country to any foreign power, but we are surrendering all of our public lands to the powerful, left winged Environmental Movement, barring any possible use of the land for any commercial purposes. We are also paying the price, by paying higher costs for imported material, oil, gas, and subjecting this country to boycots by producing countries, like in the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970's. It also denies many rural residents of the USA a chance to be gainfully employed in a profession that has high paying jobs, such as operators of equipment to professional scientists, geologists and engineers. This is not an issue for the Environmental Movement, they would just prefer that no humans were on the land in the first place. Then it would be all "natural", like is was a billion years ago.
We, as a civilization, have advanced far in science and general knowledge in the past 100 years, and we can co-exist with nature, by using the land for commercial purposes, and returning it to a productive use afterwards. Reclamation of mined lands is an area that the mining industry is very committed to, and put billions of dollars into ensuring post mining land is returned to a productive use.
By passing legislation making it prohibitvely expensive for all but the largest mining companies to engage in, would have a devastating effect on the future of mining in the USA. Most exploration is conducted by the Junior (small) mining companies. When they discover a good deposit, they usually sell it to a major company to mine, since they lack the billions of dollars in capital it takes to open a mine, nowadays. It would in effect, doom mining in the future in the United States, at a time when we would need raw materials the most.
Who would pay? Who else, all Americans would pay through the nose for the bad decisions that Mr. Horwitt (JD), the Environmental Movement, the House and Senate want to legislate. In return they would generate a few billion in new revenue, which will be tossed down the rathole like they always seem to do, on futile projects that have little real benefit for society, while destroying an entire industry. A Liberal Democratic Congress always wants to raise taxes and fees, take income from the "wealthy" (of which we all be eventually classified as wealthy), to put government in control of our lives. After looking at history, I don't think government can control itself, much less our lives, and I do not know of one person that wants the government controlling their life. Mr. Horwitt (JD), and his associates of the Left, do want to control our lives and send us the bill.
It is past time to stand up and "Just Say No" to these morons. We do not need the government to "give" us any more, because we simply can't afford the bill that comes with their "gifts". Their "gifts" always end up costing us a portion of our future and a large chunk of our income, while making little, if any difference in our lives and the lives of our children.
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