WTF – While we weren’t looking: a big win for mining!

This is the Lower Slate Lake – 2005

In June of 2005, the Army Core of Engineers gave the go ahead for the Coeur d’Alene Mines to dump 4.5 MILLION TONS of TOXIC SLURRY (WASTE) into a nearby lake. Environmental agencies were up in arms and challenged that decision by taking it to a higher court. In May of 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the favor of the environmental agencies who said that the mining company’s permit was found to be in clear violation of the Clean Water Act.

Under the permit, the Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation’s Kensington gold mine near Juneau is allowed to pump over 200,000 gallons per day of toxic wastewater slurry into Lower Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest. The pollution, taking place over 10 years, will ultimately deposit 4.5 million tons of solids in the lake and kill almost all its aquatic life.

The waste that will be dumped in the lake will contain: aluminum, copper, lead, mercury and other metals. Fish in the lake are not expected to survive the dumping process. The dumping is also expected to raise the lake bed by 50 feet and increase the size of the lake by 60 acres. It also has the potential to have an effect on, not only the environment, but also the salmon industry as the waste begins to filter into the headwaters of the salmon streams.

While researching this article, I was able to pull up the Coeur d’ Alene Mine’s website where they have published their commitiment to environmental responsibility. It is stated below.

Our Environmental Policy:

The Company has a strong regard for environmental stewardship. We conduct our activities in such a manner as to protect the physical environment in which we operate. We comply with applicable enviromental and product safety laws and regulations and develop and implement a program to ensure compliance. We are both responsible and responsive to the concerns of stakeholders relating to the environment.

In carrying out our Environmetal Policy we:
• Adhere to environmentally sound practices for cyanide managment;
• Plan for and conduct reclamation which returns mined lands to productive land uses;
• Conduct mining activities to minimize their effects on climate change; and
• Manage mine waste safely and responsibly.

It is good to feel that not only the goverment of Alaska, the Supreme Court, the Army Core of Engineers, and the Couer d’ Alene Mines are watching our backs when it comes to protoecting, not only the environment, but also the future of us all.

This is the lake in 2006 – getting ready for the toxic fill, they cut down the trees in preparation. Photos come from the Environmental Defense Fund

To see how this lake is situated on the map of Juneau, take a look here: