Former Highlands Alliance President Michael "Buffalo" Mazzetti is promoting sustainable development by bottling water from Buckhorn Mountain.


Mazzetti debuted the company at the Northwest Natural Foods Show in Seattle last April and secured distribution deals for the first 17,000 bottles. The bottling company has already been selected as the official water supplier to the Fremont Street Fair, one of Seattle's most celebrated summer festivals.


Mazzetti is out to prove that pure water is truly more valuable than gold.


"It takes Battle Mountain Gold 2,000 gallons of water to make an ounce of gold," he says. "Conservatively, that amount of water is worth $1,500 (as bottled water), while an ounce of gold is only worth around $300 on the current market." Bottling water, rather than polluting it to mine gold, makes more sense, he says.


"We can only be against so much, until we've got to show that we're for something," says Mazzetti. "We can live on the land and thrive, grow and be healthy, and still be economically active." He believes the company can eventually support 20 local jobs. The bottled-water industry is growing as much as 25 percent a year, he says, and there's room for newcomers, especially those with an environmental twist.


"Environmentalists want to feel like they've actively participated in the battle to preserve the environment," he says. Half of his company's profits will be donated to environmental groups.


Local mine boosters are unlikely to see bottled water as an economic cure. Compared to a big mine, the bottling company represents fewer jobs, lower pay and less capital flowing in.