Outlaw Cyanide In Mining Operations!
Nome Nugget Editorial - (Please note, 58.7% of Nome residents are Inupiat Natives)
There Ought To Be A Law! – August 31st, 06
The use of cyanide in mining should be outlawed in Alaska. Other mining states have made its use illegal, and so should we. This is not to be construed that we are against gold mining. We are against the serious health risks and long-term environmental damage that can happen with cyanide. Not only are we faced with the issues of cyanide use at Rock Creek, the BLM proposes to let federal land on the Seward Peninsula be open for mining. The likelihood of cyanide laced tailings ponds has increased.
Cyanide is an efficient chemical for removing gold from rock. It will get about 13 percent more gold from ore than can be recovered by ordinary non-cyanide mining techniques. Is this extra efficiency worth the price we will have to pay for cyanide monitoring for more than 100 years? No. We had hoped that the state agencies that have the duty to protect the public health and welfare were diligently doing their jobs. They weren't. They serve different masters— big money. And they won't bite the hand that feeds them.
Mining permit fees pay their salaries. This type of cronyism has to stop. As citizens of Alaska, we ought to be able to feel a degree of comfort and certainty that our state government is looking out for our interests. We have been living under a false sense of security. We are at the point where we need government expertise and authority, and we have found that our watchdogs have had their teeth pulled.
It's too bad we have to fight such battles. No one with an ounce of common sense would want cyanide traveling through or stored in their community. People should not have to live with the threat of a cyanide accident. Our personal and environmental health should not be put at stake for a few bucks and the risk of a technically unsound and scientifically flawed procedure. If we want to be used as suckers, the Brooklyn Bridge may still be for sale.
The little guys shouldn't have to fight for safety and peace of mind. No communities in Alaska should have to deal with the cyanide issue. We need to have our state legislature get some backbone and outlaw the use of cyanide in mining. It's simply not worth the risk. —N.L.M.—
Citizens Request Rock Creek Review
By Nancy McGuire – Nome Nugget – August 31st, 06
Several concerned citizens sent a request for an informal review of the Alaska Gold Company Rock Creek and Big Hurrah Mines Waste Management Permit to the Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Water. They also requested a Stay of Rock Creek Mine Waste Management Permit and 401 Certification.
The signers were spearheaded by the efforts of Austin Ahmasuk and are concerned about the direct impacts of the Rock Creek and Big Hurrah Mines project. They expressed concerns of the projects on properties, community and subsistence gathering of local foods.
It states, "The issue of cyanide has catalyzed community-wide concern. The June 26, 2006 meeting was the first open public meeting forum where cyanide use was discussed, which is why the public was not more prepared to address it that time. Those who had inquired if at earlier meetings had been assured that no chemicals would be used.
Some who signed have camps downstream of the Rock Creek and Big Hurrah mine sites and all care deeply for the land and water from which fish, moose, crabs, seals, berries and greens are harvested. There are many people in the community who share similar concerns, and concern is spreading.
Nome and regional residents will be directly and adversely impacted by the water quality impacts of the projects on the Snake and Solomon rivers watersheds which provide drinking water to many residents. The impact from the destruction of hundreds of acres of wetlands that provide filtering for contaminants as well as nurseries for fish in the Snake and Solomon rivers and other creeks and streams in the area, the air quality and noise impacts from thousands of truck trips between Big Hurrah and Rock Creek; the potential impacts from the use and storage of cyanide and other hazardous materials for the project; the potential impacts of acid generation and metals leaching from the rock storage and disposal from the project; and many other significant adverse impacts.
They are also requesting a stay of the permit and certification decision under 18 AAC 15.210. "A stay is critical during consideration of this informal review because AGC issued a press release August 22 that it intends to immediately begin construction activities for the project."
The letter states that the DEC should consider the following factors when reviewing a request for stay: (1.) the relative harm to the person requesting the stay, the permit applicant and public health, safety and the environment, if a stay were granted; (2.)The resources that would be committed during the pendency of the proceedings under this chapter, if a stay were granted or denied; and (3.) the likelihood that the person requesting the stay will prevail in the proceedings on the merits.
The letter says, "If the stay is denied the harm to many people requesting this stay and informal review as well as to the environment is great. These activities will impact our water quality, air quality, water supply, the food we eat, subsistence activities and enjoyment of our community. The harm to AGC if the stay is granted is purely financial.
The AGC only stands to lose in the timing of the huge financial windfall they receive when the gold hits the market. They paid a pittance for the mine sites, and actually made money due to the sale of gravel for the road constructed by the State for the project. This was a net gain to AGC and net loss to Alaska taxpayers. Requiring AGC to wait while the issues in this matter are resolved is a small price for the company to pay.
"Similarly, the resources that will be committed to the project if AGC is allowed to proceed with the project while review occurs and the stay is denied are tremendous. As stated, once construction begins, the impacts are significant, and cannot be undone for a significant period of time. No resources are committed to the project if the stay is granted. It is the DEC's duty to protect public trust resources and to deny a stay during the pendency of this request is a waste of those trust resources."
The letter continues, "After a thorough review of the issues for this mine, it is clear to us that the project cannot proceed as proposed. The impacts are too great, and the return to us and the state is minimal or negative." It continues that they feel once DEC management undertakes the review, significant changes will take place.
The contested terms and conditions were discussed in the letter:
The State failed to provide adequate public notice
The notice regulation 18AAC 15.05 (a) states that two consecutive notices of the application in a newspaper of general circulation in the area that would be affected by the operation and in other media the department considers appropriate to achieve sufficient public notice.
The letter expressed concern because a notice soliciting public comment and listing the date and time of a public hearing was published in The Nome Nugget on June 1, 2006 and June 22, 2006 but not on June 8 or 15. These are not consecutive notices of the "complete application." Concern was also that the second notice appeared only four days before the public hearing, leaving an inadequate time for review of the project, "which encompassed eight thick volumes and 2,100 pages."
Other Concerns Were:
The waste management permit is legally inadequate
• Lack of standards and public review
• Lack of standards and safeguards related to transportation
• Lack of standards and safeguards for acid generation
• Points of compliance (monitoring wells)
• Dust control
• Corrective action and temporary closure
• Maximum credible earthquake
• Ferrous sulfate cyanide destruction system
• Drinking water degradation
• Water management and Humidity Cell testing
• Water management and permit limitations
• Water management and impacts to adjacent waters
• Water management and Rock Creek surface water testing
• Water management and thermal and seepage evaluation
• Water management and Tailings Storage Facility
• Water management and pit lakes
• Certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act is not warranted in this case.
The letter concludes that the DEC must reconsider its approval of the WMP and 401 Certification for the Big Hurrah and Rock Creek project. This project has been rushed through the process without adequate public review and without adequate technical support. The public is tremendously concerned about the impacts of this mine.
The public is also concerned that there may not have been enough public meetings so that they may engage mine officials in a public forum to discuss concerns and engage other professionals in a sufficient review of mine documents.
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