Mineral Policy Center's response to David Rockland

  Dear HCN,

David Rockland invokes a rather confusing logic in his essay "Is our love of the West destroying Chile?" (HCN, 1/19/98).

Just because Americans wish to protect their local communities from the environmental impacts of bad mining does not imply, as Rockland asserts, they wish to "export environmental problems' to other countries. Nor are U.S. environmentalists, by demanding greater protection of our land and water resources, "creating" environmental problems for other countries. Here, Rockland acknowledges the environmental problems caused by U.S.-based mining companies, but oddly enough, he does not hold mine operators responsible. Rather, he places the blame on U.S. environmentalists.

"The environmental movement has done a superb job of vilifying the mining industry," he laments. "Mineral Policy Center, in particular, has been incredibly effective in showcasing mining as an industry that has created huge environmental disasters here and abroad." On that one, David, the industry deserves all the credit. In fact, the mining industry gives us all the material we need.

He continues: The mining industry has done an "abysmal job counteracting this public relations campaign." With Mineral Policy Center's small staff and tight budget, we'll take that as a compliment. But please be aware that Mineral Policy Center's effectiveness comes from a strong national network of local and regional groups that are working to protect their communities, as well as their wildlife, land and precious water resources.

Mineral Policy Center is not opposed to all mining. But we do oppose mining in environmentally sensitive areas. We oppose public-land giveaways under the 1872 Mining Law, and other subsidies that create an incentive for extraction rather than recycling. And we believe local citizens should have a say in all decisions affecting their communities.

Unfortunately, these communities have been discounted by the industry. In his essay, Rockland emphasizes that siting a mine is determined almost entirely by the quality of the ore body. "Community opposition is not a factor," he writes. Gee, and to think Mineral Policy Center recently gave the mining industry credit for making progress in its communications with local communities and other stakeholders!

Susan Brackett

Washington, D.C.

The writer is communications director of the Mineral Policy Center.