What is New Mexico's hardrock mining reclamation law? Why was BHP Copper Co. allowed to dump untreated tailings in Papua, New Guinea's Ok Tedi River, destroying local agriculture and the communities dependent on it? How harmful is chromium to a stream?


You can find the answers in Golden Dreams, Poisoned Streams, the Mineral Policy Center's new bible for people concerned about the impacts of hardrock mining on water. The impacts are dramatic. In the past 100 years, hardrock mines have contaminated 12,000 miles of U.S. streams, produced acid mine drainage that will last over 3,000 years, and racked up millions of dollars in reclamation bills. The scope of this book is mammoth. Using case studies and technical papers, it discusses the hydrology, geology, chemistry and law that together explain the complexities of digging for metals.


But the premise of the book is delightfully simple: Our quest for precious metals has poisoned our waters. The fourth chapter - -We know how to stop pollution' - is its heart. The Mineral Policy Center states that minerals can be mined safely, that dirty water is not the necessary cost of using computers, turning on lights, and even wearing gold chains. Then it shows how few mining companies take these precautions.


The tone is strict and enforcing; after all, these are the guys who have dedicated themselves to reforming the 1872 Mining Law. But the data are clear and fairly interpreted.


Golden Dreams, Poisoned Streams was written by Carlos D. Da Rosa and James Lyon and edited by Philip Hocker. The Mineral Policy Center, 1612 K Street, NW, Suite 809, Washington, D.C. 20006. 202/887-1872. $24.95. 269 pages. Illustrated with photographs and illustrations.


*Heather Abel