Tag Archives: mine

Caught on Tape: One of World’s Rarest Orchids — Watch Video

29 Jul

from the Center for Biological Diversity

Photo by Ron Coleman

Photo by Ron Coleman

Coleman’s coralroot is a stunning purple orchid that exists in only a few mountain ranges in the Southwest. Fewer than 200 are known to exist in the wild, and they remain a mystery: Biologists don’t even know how the flowers are pollinated, largely because there are so few individuals — and because the elusive plants spend most of their lives underground.

It’s extremely rare to actually see these orchids in the wild. Recently, though, Center for Biological Diversity staff wandered the desert and found two specimens in full bloom; we captured them on video so that you, too, can see this beautiful hermit of the desert in all its glory.

Check out the video of the Coleman’s coralroot below; then read about the Center’s work to protect this orchid and other rare plants and animals in the Southwest’s breathtaking Sky Islands region, where many special species and wild places are threatened by an open-pit mine planned for the Santa Rita Mountains.

Guatemala Declares Emergency In 4 Towns Following Kidnappings, Shootouts

3 May

Cross Posted from Reuters:

GUATEMALA CITY, May 2  – Guatemala declared an emergency in four southeastern towns on Thursday, suspending citizens’ constitutional rights in an area where deadly protests over a proposed silver mine have erupted in recent weeks.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez announced the move in an effort to quell protests targeting the mine belonging to Canadian miner Tahoe Resources Inc. Two people have been killed in the demonstrations.

The company’s security guards shot and wounded six demonstrators on Saturday, said Mauricio Lopez, Guatemala’s security minister.

The next day, protesters, who say the Escobal silver mine near the town of San Rafael Las Flores will contaminate local water supplies, kidnapped 23 police officers, Lopez said.

One police officer and a demonstrator were killed in a shootout on Monday when police went to free the hostages, said Lopez.

“I am not going to allow this to continue,” Perez told reporters. “We have conducted a six-month investigation in this area with the attorney general’s office for various criminal activities.”

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Protests Continue Against Iron Mining

9 Nov

Armenia - Protesters destroy drilling samples at a would-be iron mine near Hrazdan, Nov 9 2011.

By Karlen Aslanian

Cross-posted from here

Opposition politicians and environmental activists joined on Wednesday about two hundred residents of the central Armenian town of Hrazdan in protesting against the opening of an iron mine which they believe would have grave ecological consequences.

The crowd rallied in Hrazdan’s central square before heading to a nearby hill rich in iron ore in a convoy of buses and cars.

Bounty Resources Armenia Limited (BRAL), a company partly owned by a Chinese firm, plans to launch open-pit operations there and in two other, larger iron deposits elsewhere in the country in the coming years. A team of geologists hired by BRAL is currently working there to ascertain iron reserves hidden underground through test drilling.

Environment protection groups are strongly opposed to iron mining in the area, saying that it would pollute air, agricultural land and the Hrazdan river, the main supplier of irrigation water to the fertile Ararat Valley in the country’s south.

Many Hrazdan residents share these concerns. Some of them already demonstrated against the project late last month.

“There is a ghost town in China near a similarly exploited mine,” said one woman taking part in the protest. “We would have the same situation here.”

Miasnik Malkhasian, a geologist coordinating test drilling at the site, dismissed such concerns as he and his workers were confronted by the angry crowd. “There is no danger whatsoever,” he said.

The protesters remained unconvinced. Some of them smashed wooden boxes containing drilling samples. Police officers monitoring the demonstration did not intervene.

“Such criminal decisions are not made in Hrazdan,” Karine Hakobian, a leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, told the protesters before the march. “They are made in Yerevan, at the presidential palace and the government building. They have turned us into slaves in our own country.”

Sasun Mikaelian, a Hrazdan-based former parliamentarian affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), singled out former Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian for blame.

The Hetq.am news service reported last January that by Ayvazian and his family at least partly control BRAL. The ex-minister, who now chairs one of the standing committees of the Armenian parliament, did not deny that.

The Hetq report followed the announcement by the Chinese company Fortune Oil that it has paid $24 million to acquire a 35 percent share in BRAL. Fortune Oil has the option of raising the stake to 50 percent for an additional $16 million.

Ayvazian had considerable regulatory authority over the mining industry when he served as environment minister from 2001-2007.

Protest against planned cyanide-process gold mine in Romania

7 Nov

Romanian demonstrators display banners reading "Save Rosia Montana" during a protest in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, against a controversial Canadian gold mine project in the village of Rosia Montana. Photograph by: Mircea Rosca, AFP/Getty Images

CLUJ, Romania — About a dozen people occupied a historic building in the Romanian city of Cluj on Monday to protest a plan to mine gold using the controversial cyanide process in a nearby heritage area.

“We call on the Romanian president and prime minister to stop lobbying in favour of this harmful project,” protester Raluca Dan said.

“We want to draw attention to the lies spread about the project, which is to use large quantities of cyanide and destroy all that represents the value of Rosia Montana village,” the protesters said in a statement.

The protesters, including architects, artists and a telecommunication engineer, said they would not leave the disused Renaissance and Baroque-style building in Cluj’s central square until their demands are met.

The company, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, a subsidiary of Gabriel Resources, wants to extract 300 tonnes of gold at the site in north-central Romania using the cyanide process, which is banned in several countries.

President Traian Basescu actively supports the project, criticised by environmental groups and advocates of heritage protection because the site is near Roman galleries dating from the second century, unique in Europe.

The project is awaiting a go-ahead from the environment ministry.

Article by and cross posted from AFP here see also here

Iron County mine proposal pits jobs against environment

3 Jul

Bill Heart of Trout Unlimited goes fly fishing on the Tyler Forks River. A proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin raises concerns about water pollution

Iron ore made this town, and many people believe an open-pit mine will help revive the fortunes of this once-bustling community.

“We need jobs now – not 10 years from now,” said hardware store owner Jack Giovanoni, who supports plans for a $1.5 billion mine 20 miles away.

But the project is emerging as a classic jobs-vs.-environment battle as opponents question how a large mine could influence another natural asset of the region – its water resources.

While the developer, Gogebic Taconite, hasn’t formally applied for a construction permit, the project is coming under fire from environmental groups and from a nearby Indian tribe.

The Bad River band of Lake Superior Chippewa voted to formally oppose the mine this spring.

And in a significant development, the tribe is poised to win new powers to govern water-quality standards that could affect the operations of the mine.

The tribe and the proposed mine are in the 1,000-square-mile Bad River watershed, a major tributary to Lake Superior.

The tribe, whose reservation is on the shore of Lake Superior, is close to receiving approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would allow it to set water standards on tribal properties.

This would enable the tribe to impose limitations on water users that operate upstream and outside the reservation, as well, state and federal officials said last week.

“The Bad River people stand to bear the environmental brunt of this mine,” Tribal Chief Michael Wiggins Jr. said at his office in Odanah.

Two of the tribe’s main concerns:

Will the water-intensive needs of an open pit mine and its processing plant reduce flows downstream and harm drinking water, fishing and wild rice beds on tribal lands?

Will sulfide chemicals in the waste rock seep into groundwater, streams and wetlands and harm water quality?

Gogebic Taconite says the company will avoid such problems.

Bill Williams, president of the company, said the processing plant will recycle its water. While there will be water loss in processing the ore, it won’t be sufficient to harm the watershed, he said.

As for the potential of sulfide pollution, early indications show that the region’s rock doesn’t have high concentrations. If it turns out the chemical content is higher, “there is no way that the mine will ever be permitted,” said Williams, who has worked on mines in Spain, Peru, Minnesota and Michigan.

Long-term project

Gogebic Taconite is owned by the Cline Group, a privately held mining company based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., with coal interests in Illinois and other parts of Appalachia.

Gogebic has an option on the mineral rights for 22,000 acres covering 22 miles of a mountain range known as the Gogebic or Penokee that runs through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Plans call for operating the first phase for 35 years, but officials say the deposit, 20% to 35% iron ore, is significant enough to continue mining for the next century.

The Gogebic range in these parts rises several hundred feet above Highway 77 in Iron and Ashland counties, and is used for logging, as well as hunting and other recreational uses.

Since Gogebic’s plans became known, Bill Heart of Ashland, past chair of Trout Unlimited in Wisconsin, has been making visits with his fly rod to the Tyler Forks River, the closest river to the mine.

Last Tuesday morning, he caught and released a steady succession of brook trout, nearly stomped on a wood turtle – a threatened species – and nibbled on his first wild strawberry of the season.

“This river – these little streams out here and what they carry – make a difference,” said Heart, who is worried the mine will harm the watershed.

“Everything flows downstream.”

Life will change considerably if the Department of Natural Resources and other regulatory agencies approve the project, which Gogebic hopes to start operating in about five years.

In the initial phase, miners would cut a 4-mile-plus swath between Ballou Creek in Ashland County and the Tyler Forks in Iron County, which flows through Copper Falls State Park.

Plans call for digging a pit 1,000 feet deep to extract rock. A processing plant on-site would crush and concentrate the ore, baking it into marble-sized pellets used to make steel. Two trainloads of pellets would lumber out of the mine each day.

The Gogebic range has been mined intermittently since the late 1800s; and in Hurley, mining is as much a part of the city’s legacy as the Packers are in Green Bay.

Many of the streets bear the names of minerals, including the infamous Silver St., Hurley’s main drag where bars and strip joints once catered to off-duty miners.

Silver St. is tamer these days – the last iron mined in this part of Wisconsin was the Cary mine, which closed in 1965.

“The range never recovered from the collapse of mining,” said Paul Sturgul, a Hurley attorney who is chairman of the local mining committee appointed by the Iron County Board.

Sturgul, whose father was a miner for 22 years, supports Gogebic’s proposal to mine the ore – if it can be done safely without harming the environment.

“This could be the last gasp for the Gogebic range,” he said.

To underscore the significance of the project, the Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce last month collected 2,040 signatures in a week and a half and sent them to lawmakers, urging them to back the mine.

Economic boost

Supporters believe the mine would jump-start a troubled economy. Iron and Ashland counties are poorer, older and less educated than the state average.

Food stamp usage is higher here, Iron County figures show.

Median household income in Iron County in 2009 was $34,210, or 32% below the statewide average, according to the most recent U.S. census figures.

One quarter of the population is 65 or older, projected to rise to 38% by 2030, according to the state Department of Workforce Development. Wisconsin’s 65-and-older population is 14%.

As for education, 15% of the county’s population has a college degree. The statewide average is 26%.

“We are basically losing our young people to other places,” said Jeff Gulan, principal of Hurley’s K-12 school.

In fact, Iron County’s population is the lowest in at least 100 years. Census figures reported a population of 5,916 people in 2010. It reached its peak in 1920 at 10,261.

“I can’t see anything else that will bring this area back,” said Jack Giovanoni, owner of Giovanoni’s True Value Hardware, which has been in his family since 1941.

But business is at its lowest point ever. Gogebic’s 700 mining jobs – with average salaries and benefits of nearly $83,000 a year – would be a boon to the local economy, he said.

Gogebic’s own economic analysis estimates the mine would stimulate a total of 2,834 jobs during the first 35 years of operation as truckers, rail workers, professional people and businesses move into the area.

Like many in Hurley, Giovanoni is frustrated by the opponents and their claims that the mine will harm the environment.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said, gazing downtown from his driveway a few blocks away.

In a meeting with editors and reporters of the Journal Sentinel last week, Gov. Scott Walker said the mine is “something we should pursue,” but added the state can’t neglect its duty to enforce environmental regulations.

“If we can set a standard that shows we can be environmentally responsible, you’re talking about literally thousands of jobs that are generational,” Walker said.

Awaiting legislative action

Gogebic had planned to drill exploratory holes this year, but is putting the work on hold until lawmakers take up legislation that would ease the way to construct a mine. Staff, meanwhile, are evaluating other projects in the Midwest, according to the company.

This spring, legislators balked at fast-tracking a bill as they grappled with the budget deficit and collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Though never formally introduced, a draft bill heavily influenced by the company was widely circulated.

It would have required the DNR to act on an iron-mining permit within 300 days and eliminated an appeal process. Wetland protections would also have been weakened.

A bill could be back before the Legislature this fall.

“We need jobs and clean water, and we can’t live here without either one of them,” said Michele Wheeler, executive director of the Ashland-based Bad River Watershed Association.

“We are going to be the guinea pig for any legislation that comes out, so we really needed to understand what is going to happen.”

Wiggins, the tribal chief, opposes any changes to the state’s mining laws, and said that mining advocates’ talk of jobs tends to marginalize the value of tourism and the importance of clean water to indigenous people.

He sent Walker a letter in May complaining that the DNR authorized Gogebic to do exploratory drilling without soliciting comments from the tribe and others.

“If we didn’t stand up and exert ourselves, and sound our voices, we are going to be railroaded,” Wiggins said.

In June, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp and executive assistant Scott Gunderson, a former Republican legislator, joined Wiggins to tour the sloughs and wild rice beds that surround the Bad River.

“It quickly became apparent – and I say this with all due respect – that Miss Stepp and Mr. Gunderson were not familiar with the negative environmental impacts of the iron mining process,” Wiggins said.

Stepp agreed she did not know of the specific examples Wiggins had mentioned. “But I am not unaware of the problems associated with mining and the issues in the industry,” she said.

“My job was to go up there and reassure him that we are going to be diligent protectors of the environment.”

James B. Nelson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Cross posted from here