STOP-M in Oregon

  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.

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