The Latest Bounce

by Jodi Peterson

There’s gold in them thar hills — and tailings in that thar lake. The Army Corps of Engineers confirmed its decision to let a mining company dump millions of tons of mine waste into an Alaskan lake (HCN, 7/25/05: Mining waste dumped in streams — and now lakes). Last fall, environmentalists sued the agency to revoke Coeur Alaska’s permit, which allows it to put about 4.5 million tons of tailings into Lower Slate Lake over the next 14 years. The Clean Water Act banned such disposal in 1972, but in 2002, a rule change reclassified mining waste as "fill," which can legally be dumped into waterways.

For the fourth time since 2000, Colorado saw a split-estate bill go down in flames. This year’s bill got as far as passing the House of Representatives. It would have required energy companies to negotiate with landowners before drilling, and to pay for damages they cause. But the bill died under heavy opposition from the energy industry and arguments over whether damage assessments should include concerns like quality of life (HCN, 2/07/05: Split-estate rebellion: Ranchers take on energy developers). A Glenwood Springs real estate agent, John Gorman, has filed a ballot initiative that would put the issue to voters statewide in November.

A haven for rock climbers, birders, hikers and American Indians is on the chopping block again. In early April, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, R, introduced a bill that would trade Oak Flat, a popular recreational area in the Tonto National Forest, to Resolution Copper Co., which wants to develop a copper mine on the site (HCN, 4/4/05: Rock jocks fight a mining company). In exchange, the company would provide private land in other areas. A version of the bill floated last year was shot down; the new bill creates a state park in the Tam O’Shanter Mountains to make up for the lost climbing area and adds another 880 acres of private land.

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