Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.
Joe Cisneros will tell you proudly that he was the model for the feisty protagonist in John Nichols' novel The Milagro Beanfield War - and Nichols concurs. Cisneros has been Molycorp's most belligerent and outspoken critic since a botched 1968 attempt by the company to turn one of its tailings lagoons into "Turquoise Lake" for recreationists.
Joe Cisneros:"I blew the whistle on Turquoise Lake about all the fish dying. They stocked it around 2 to 3 p.m.; by 5 p.m., they were all dying. I was working for them. That's when I started having troubles with Molycorp. They fired my ass because I wouldn't keep my mouth shut about all those tailings line breaks and Turquoise Lake.
"You go to town, and if you are vocal and fight Molycorp, you're a radical and you're a troublemaker. They call you all kinds of names. And for me, I don't give a damn. I don't lose sleep over it. I'll tell (Molycorp) right in their face. They never been honest, a bunch of liars. They have manipulated the people.
"Before Molycorp started employing all these people up there, everybody got along. But the people that got hired got greedy and, like an old team of horses, they had blinders on. Molycorp always had the habit of putting their goons out there - 'don't say anything about the river, about dust' - if you have relatives working up there, they might get fired. In black culture they call those people Uncle Toms. Here we call them Tio Tacos.
"Molycorp hasn't been a good neighbor to us. Not in my view. They have destroyed our water, destroyed our air. What are we going to leave for our grandkids? We're gonna leave nothing. This giant monolith moves into town, they destroy everything. They don't respect anyone."
Copyright © 2000 HCN and Sandhya Ganapathy and Eirian Humphreys