Fending off the gold diggers

 

Today the Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a case that could take away local government discretion on mining operations. The court must decide whether counties have the right to prohibit open-pit cyanide gold mining by adopting land-use regulations. (The Colorado Mining Association, an industry group, sued Summit County after it passed such regulations in 2004, the fifth Colorado county to do so. The state Court of Appeals decided in favor of the county, and the Mining Association is appealing that decision.)

Mining companies use a cyanide solution to extract gold from low-grade ore. Those who wish to ban the practice in their counties say it can result in serious environmental degradation, a la the Summitville disaster of the 1990s.

The Mining Association claims the state has sole authority over such decisions, and that regulating mining is not a land-use decision. But in a phone press conference on Monday, several county commissioners and local citizens groups begged to differ.

“Counties are just an extension of the state and if local authorities aren’t able to put conditions on approval for land-use concerns than it puts control in the hands of folks who aren’t from the area and don’t know local conditions,” Conejos County Commissioner John Sandoval said. Conejos lies downstream from the infamous Summitville site.

“These are not decisions made by people who want to do good for the community,” said Costilla County Commissioner Ed Vigil. “They want profits. It’s very important that local governments play a big part in granting opportunities for mining.”

Jeff Parsons, attorney with the nonprofit Western Action Mining Project, noted that the case could have larger ramifications. “Should the court rule in favor of the Colorado Mining Association, the effect would affect not only cyanide heap and vat leaching, but all types of mining,” he said. “An adverse decision could strip local government authority over all mining in the state.”

It's difficult to envision a compromise in this case, but it's happened before in similar situations. The court is not likely to reach a decision for several months, according to Parsons.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Western Slope Conservation Center Paonia, CO WSCC seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking and a creative problem-solver. Position Summary: The Executive Director leads...
  • ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT/HOSPITALITY SERVICES
    Seasoned ranch manager of award-winning conservation ranch seeking position as nature reserve/resort or ranch manager. Visit philipmoonwalker.com for resume and certifications. Contact: [email protected]
  • PART-TIME OREGON GRANT WRITER
    Help advance rights for people, communities, and nature - Part-time grant writer. The Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN) has been active over the last six...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Utah Public Lands Program Director Location: Southern Utah Position: Full Time (40 hours per week) Supervisor: Conservation Director About us: The Grand Canyon...
  • FSBO PROPERTY-SOUTHEAST ARIZONA
    Located in an area steeped in history, this gentleman's ranch sits at the entrance to the renowned Cave Creek Canyon. Enjoy picturesque views of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • LAND CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    JOIN OUR TEAM! The New Mexico Land Conservancy in Santa Fe is seeking a Land Conservation Project Manager who will work to protect land and...
  • HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NP
    Comfortable home at foot of Boulder Mountain, on one fenced acre. Amazing views!
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • NEW MEXICO PROPERTY - SILVER CITY
    20 acres, $80,000. Owner financing, well, driveway, fencing possible, very private, sensible covenants, broker owned. Contact - 575-534-7955 or [email protected]
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.