California has two new regulations that industry officials say could spell the end of gold-mining in the Golden State.
On April 7, Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill requiring
mining companies to fill in open-pit mines near sacred Indian sites
on federal lands, once they have completed mining. The same week,
the California State Mining and Geology Board enacted similar rules
for pits on state and private lands.
The decisions are in
response to the Bush administration’s reversal of mining
rules enacted by the Clinton administration. Those rules would have
given federal agencies the power to deny mining proposals that
would cause "substantial irreparable harm" to the environment or
sacred Indian sites (HCN, 11/19/01: Mining reform gets the shaft).
"Some states are starting to realize, since the federal government
dropped the ball on mining regulation, they have to step up to the
plate," says Roger Flynn, director of the Western Mining Action
Project, a nonprofit law center. The new rules put all new gold
projects in jeopardy, according to industry officials.
Chuck Jeannes, the senior vice president of the Glamis Gold
company, says the new laws will make his company’s proposed
mine on an area sacred to the Quechan Indian Nation economically
infeasible (HCN, 12/17/01: Gold may bury tribe's path to its past).
But Jeannes says the project’s decade-long battle is not
over. "(We) have a $15 million investment," he says, "and I
don’t expect we’ll just walk away."