EARTHWORKS

It was 25 years ago…

Jennifer Krill's avatar
By Jennifer Krill

March 5, 2013

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Mineral Policy Center (now Earthworks) Founders Phil Hocker (center), Stewart Udall (right), and Michael McCloskey testify for 1872 Mining Law reform before US Senate hearing July 7, 1988

25 years ago in 1988, Earthworks (then Mineral Policy Center) was founded with a simple idea: irresponsible mining and drilling that scars landscapes and devastates communities, had to stop.

Early on, the most significant single shift we proposed was to reform the General Mining Law of 1872. While changing this antiquated policy has proven to be a tall order, in twenty-five years we achieved a long list of accomplishments to protect the public and the environment from destructive mining.

Along the way, we developed innovative new ways to address the problem. In 2004, we launched the No Dirty Gold campaign to catalyze the jewelry market and consumers into powerful new allies to reform mining. To date, we have over 90 jewelers signed onto the campaign, committed to source gold and other precious metals from responsible sources and many of them not shy about telling the mining companies exactly what that means.

We successfully petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to expand its Toxics Release Inventory to include metal mining – since then, metal mining has topped the TRI: revealed as the nation’s largest toxic polluter every single year. It is important to note that the TRI is compiled from company-reported data. It doesn’t require anything except information-sharing about the toxics companies release and store in and around our communities.

And the victory in getting the mining industry to report to TRI paid concrete dividends: it revealed that gold mining was one of the largest emitters of mercury air pollution in the country.  No one knew this before the industry was required to report its toxics.

So we used that information to bring the pressure to bear to get Nevada state and then federal rules in place to significantly reduce mercury air emissions from gold mining.  In the process we played a key role in eliminating what once was one of the top five emitters of mercury air pollution in the country.

As bad as mining can be, other extractive industries also pose dramatic threats to our communities and landscapes. That’s why in 2005, the Oil & Gas Accountability Project and Earthworks joined forces to tackle the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, across the country. In more than thirty oil and gas producing states across the nation, fracking has fueled a drilling boom in rural areas, suburbs and cities, in schoolyards and farmyards, and in drinking watersheds that never before faced the threat of extractive industries.

Earthworks has protected critical habitats from drilling; convinced state and local governments to protect their citizens from harm caused by out-of-control fracking, and has been at the forefront of mobilizing diverse affected communities from across the country into a movement for change.

Through all of these years of organizing and campaigning, we have learned that the source of power is not us, but you. If you are a member of Earthworks, thank you; your financial support helps keep us going. If you are an activist for Earthworks, thank you; your dedication to protect communities and the environment from extraction is why we are winning.

We aren’t done yet; we still face hard battles ahead. Now is the time to take stock of where we have come; be proud of our victories, and turn together towards our vision of clean water, a healthy environment, and communities that are protected from pollution.


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Tagged with: phil hocker, mining, fracking, 25th anniversary

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