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Environment: Judge upholds EPA’s review of proposed Pebble Mine, near Bristol Bay, Alaska

Salmon fisheries at risk with open-pit mine proposal

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The EPA will be allowed to do a thorough evaluation of the impacts of a proposed copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, a federal judge has ruled.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal judge Friday ruled that the EPA can proceed with an environmental review of a proposed copper mine in Alaska’ pristine Bristol Bay.

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland rejected arguments that the EPA exceeded its authority by starting the review process in the absence of a specific permit application, and that the review violates the Alaska Statehood Act.

At issue is the proposed Pebble Mine, which would, according to environmental groups, become the largest copper mine in the world, potentially tainting huge areas of productive salmon habitat with dredged material and other pollutants. Continue reading

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Federal judge requires more up-front study for Idaho mining

Court determines that Forest Service failed to meet environmental review standards in approving exploration project on public lands

Pollution from mining can affect ground and surface water for many decades, like here at the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine site in Summit County, Colorado, where miles of stream have poisoned by acid mine drainage. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A late August federal court ruling from a U.S. District Court in Idaho could have a ripple effect on proposed mining activities around the West.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Lodge requires the U.S. Forest Service to do more baseline environmental analysis and disclose potential water quality impacts from an exploratory mining proposal.

In his decision, Lodge, a Bush-era appointee, said the Forest Service failed to meet standards spelled out under federal environmental laws when it comes to evaluating and disclosing potential effects to groundwater. Continue reading

Environment: Mining law overhaul is long overdue

The El Chino open-pit copper mine, near Silver City, New Mexico.

Record gold prices spurring new activity; watchdog groups say now is the time to update federal mining law

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — If federal lawmakers are serious about shrinking the budget deficit, they should be looking seriously at a proposal by U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that would make sure the oil, gas and mining industries pay their fare share.

Markey introduced his proposed legislation in the House Natural Resources Committee last week.

A key component of this comprehensive legislation would overhaul the General Mining Law of 1872, which allows mining of gold, copper, uranium and other metals virtually anywhere on Western public lands, with few environmental safeguards and no return to the taxpayers. Hardrock mining is the only industry that extracts resources from public lands that does not pay federal royalties. Continue reading

Colorado: Gold mine proposed near Fairplay

A site plan for a proposed gold mine near Fairplay.

Wavering economy drives gold price upward; more mining proposals possible

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the price of gold surging to near $1,800 per ounce, it’s no wonder that there’s talk of new gold mines opening in Colorado. One of the latest proposals is for a small combination placer gold, sand and gravel mining operation on five acres on an 80-acre BLM parcel near Fairplay.

A BLM comment period on the proposed mine just ended. A draft environmental assessment will be posted at this BLM website. Continue reading

Forest Service to review mining operation near Aspen

A map that's part of the Forest Service review process shows the area of proposed mining operations.

Alabaster quarry seeking to expand operations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service says it will carefully evaluate a plan for alabaster mining on the White Banks mining claims  near Avalanche Creek in the Crystal River Valley.

Originally staked by Mystic Eagle Quarry, LLC, the White Banks claims have been leased to Elbram Stone Company, establishing a valid existing right under the General Mining Law of 1872.

In recognizing this valid right and accepting a plan of operations for review, the Forest Service has a responsibility to ensure that surface operations associated with the mining are conducted, where feasible, to minimize adverse environmental impacts on National Forest surface resources. The Forest Service will analyze and disclose the environmental impacts of the proposed action, along with any reasonable alternatives, before approving the White Banks Plan of Operations.

Elbram Stone has proposed several changes from past operations including: a request for year-round operations that would require snow removal on National Forest System Road 310; mining marble and gypsum in addition to alabaster; drilling a well on-site to provide an estimated 1000 gallons per day of water; construction of a by-pass road around the mine; and construction of a log office building to replace the existing mobile bath house. Information on the mining proposal and the associated documents are online here. Continue reading

Summit Rotarians visit the Climax Mine

Summit Rotary Club members during a recent tour of the Climax Molybdenum mine at Fremont Pass. PHOTO COURTESY DON SATHER.

Tour helps shed light on differences between historic and modern mining practices

By Summit Voice

The Summit County Rotary Club recently followed up on last month’s visit to the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine with a tour of the open-pit Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville.

Summit Rotary Club president Don Sather organized the tour along with fellow Rotarian Fred Menzer, vice president of Climax mine operations in Colorado. Climax is a subsidiary of global multinational Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold, the world’s largest publicly traded copper company.  Continue reading

Summit Rotary Club visits the Pennsylvania Mine

Keystone Science School, Blue River Watershed Group lead tour to polluted site along Peru Creek

Abandoned mining equipment high along Peru Creek at the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine.

Summit Rotary Club members visit the Pennsylvania Mine site.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local Rotary Club members got a first-hand look at the heavily polluted Pennsylvania Mine site high in the Snake River Basin last week, as the Blue River Watershed Group, helped by the Keystone Science School, continued its outreach and education efforts on local water issues.

Acid mine drainage oozing from the mine and other sources pollutes Peru Creek and the Snake River for several miles downstream. Concentrations of toxic heavy metals, including zinc, cadmium and arsenic, exceed state and federal limits set to protect aquatic life. Years of study along Peru Creek and the Snake River are aimed at trying to improve water quality to a point where at least the Snake River, upstream of Keystone, could support a self-sustaining trout population. See more photos from the site visit after the break … Continue reading

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