Since 1989, miners have staked over 40,000 claims to
mine microscopic gold dust in eastern Oregon. The prospectors
foresee massive open-pit cyanide mines to retrieve the gold, but so
far no such mines exist in the state. Newmont Grassy Mountain Corp.
ow wants to develop a claim 25 miles south of Vale, a small town
that needs jobs. A ballot initiative from STOP-M, a group of Oregon
environmental activists, could threaten that proposal since it
requires companies to have a clean record. Newmont is already
involved in two Superfund cleanups. The initiative also requires
miners to backfill open pits, rebuild disturbed aquifers and
monitor mine sites forever. "The (mining) industry as a whole has
gotten away with murder for years, and now they're getting called
on it and they're crying like babies," says Gary Brown, president
of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Mining. Although Newmont said
the proposal violates a state law limiting initiatives to one
subject, an Oregon circuit court recently ruled that the "green"
initiative is valid. Larry Tuttle, director of the Oregon Natural
Resources Council, says he expects few problems collecting 66,771
signatures by July to put the initiative on the 1994 ballot.
Meanwhile, Newmont spokesman Jim Hill says the company's plans for
Vale remain unchanged.