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Obama administration aims to end sweetheart deal for mining industry

By Lauren Pagel

February 14, 2011

Released today, the FY 2012 Obama administration budget endeavors to end the taxpayer boondoggle known as federal hardrock mining policy. On behalf of Earthworks and all of the communities we work with in hardrock mining country, I d like to thank the President Obama for taking on this industry that has taken advantage of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law for far too long. The 1872 Mining Law, which lacks both royalties and protections for communities and precious western water resources, has left this country with at least $50 billion dollars in unreclaimed mine sites with no industry contribution to help deal with the problem.

The Obama administration proposes two things that would change the way that mining operates on public lands. Both of these changes would move us a step closer to cleaning up the mess that has been created by the current mining law.

First, the administration proposes a reclamation fee on the production of hardrock minerals based on the volume of material mined. This money would then be distributed through a competitive grant program to states where remediation is needed. This $200 million a year would go a long way in addressing the serious safety and water quality issues at many abandoned mine sites throughout the West.

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Tagged with: 1872 mining law, obama, royalties, leasing, president obama, department of interior, hardrock minerals


Certified "Fairtrade" gold -- what is it really?

By Scott Cardiff

February 11, 2011

On Wednesday, UK jewelers announced the launch of "Fairtrade" gold jewelry.  Some jewelers have already been using gold from these same Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) mines, but two of the mines have recently been certified "Fairtrade."  What are these mines, and what does "Fairtrade gold" mean?

The mines, one in Colombia and one in Bolivia, demonstrate both the potential benefits and the problems of the Alliance for Responsible Mining/Fairtrade Labeling Organization certification standards for "Fairtrade" and "Fairmined."  The mining and certification may well benefit the communities on the short-term, and the Colombian Oro Verde mine does not use mercury or cyanide. On the other hand, reclamation and restoration standards are poorly defined at both mines, and the Bolivian mine allows mercury use and is located in a National Park. The Colombian mine is in the Choc , a department that has experienced significant armed conflict.

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Tagged with: no dirty gold, mercury, fairtrade, colombia, asm, arm, bolivia


Containing Oil & Gas Waste

By Jennifer Goldman

February 10, 2011

A positive and partial outcome of the high-profile debate on fracturing: our state agencies are starting to actively discuss the importance of containing oil and gas wastes in various aspects of the drilling and production process.

In late December the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission passed a new rule that requires the use of portable frack tanks in the Niobrara oil shale play, as well as other areas in the state where groundwater is less than sixty feet from the surface.

The WOGCC s move to contain frack waste is a smart one, albeit long over due and narrowly focuses on containing just one toxic component of the drilling and production process -- fracturing fluids.

Landowners across the West have been calling for containment and proper disposal of pit waste for years.  The Endocrine Disruption Exchange points out in an analysis of New Mexico drilling pit waste that 57% of pit chemicals found were volatile -- with known health effects to the respiratory, skin and sensory, cardiovascular, developmental, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

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Tagged with: hydraulic fracturing, wyoming, state oil and gas regulations, pit waste


Students teach officials a dirty energy lesson

By Nadia Steinzor

February 10, 2011

There s nothing like a long, frigid winter to prove what a great idea it is to have well-insulated, energy efficient buildings. President Obama spotlighted research underway at Penn State to develop more such structures during a visit to the campus last week and while there chose not to focus on the university s less laudable energy-related activities.

Maybe that s because in the recent State of the Union address, the President put natural gas in the same category as clean energy sources like wind and solar. This approach jibed with that taken by the Penn State s Board of Trustees, which voted in late January to get the school s steam plant off of coal and onto natural gas.

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Tagged with: natural gas, marcellus shale, pennsylvania, dirty energy, penn state, renewables


Communities finally get their day in court to defend Astrolabe Bay (PNG)

By Scott Cardiff

February 9, 2011

The Ramu nickel mine in in Papua New Guinea wants to tear up the land and flush millions of tons of toxic mineral waste directly into the ocean just off-shore in Basamuk/Astrolabe Bay. "Out of sight, out of mind," the companies want people to think of that waste dumping. Well the ocean is not a toilet for the mining companies' toxic waste, and landowners around the coastal area of Papua New Guinea have said "not so fast!"

Several Madang community members, recently joined by an additional 998 landowner plaintiffs, have filed a lawsuit to demand a permanent injunction against the Ramu Nickel project's plan to directly dump mine waste, or tailings, into the ocean. After months of delays, during which the mine built up its project, the government sought to ban lawsuits against mining companies, and mine promoters harassed and scared off the original plaintiffs, the community members finally got their day in court as proceedings began yesterday and continued today.

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Tagged with: nickel, basamuk bay, coral reef, astrolabe bay, highlands pacific, anz, ocean, marine


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