Toxic mining legacy, part one


Aug. 6, 2015, was the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and also the day the Gold King Mine above Silverton, Colorado, spewed a buildup of toxic mining waters into the Animas River flowing through bucolic Durango (“Animas spill,” HCN, 8/31/15). I am a gold-miner’s daughter. I moved to Durango in 1985 and completed a geology 101 class while pondering the idea of working with my father in California as a geologist. The takeaway from that course was that what I had thought of mining from my experiences as a child, panning for gold or pulling shiny flakes off the walls in the huge ventilated tunnels that my father had set up, was that gold mining today was a really destructive business.

I lived in and out of Durango for nearly 10 years and landed in the Sierra Foothills in 1997, the other toxic area, the Sierra Nevada Gold Country. I have just finished chelating extremely high levels of mercury and lead from my bloodstream, and because I was tested properly I had an opportunity to do something about it. In two years’ time, I turned around a destiny of disability. Many neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s, ALS, multiple sclerosis) are thought to be caused by high toxic burdens that turn on genetic predisposition to these otherwise “rare” or “mystery” conditions, and inhibit our innate detoxification systems.

We have to acknowledge the legacy of mining pollution, have conversations about it, and take responsibility for improved testing of waters, soil, air and our bodies, and clean up what we can, detox what we can, so we can protect ourselves, our children, and all life on this planet in the future. Gold King Mine is a Superfund site. Let’s declare it and get the aggressive resources needed to stop this never-ending pollution.

Liana Dicus
Mammoth Lakes, California

High Country News Classifieds