Once more the metal mining industry is largest toxic polluter in the United States. On January 15th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the latest numbers from the nation’s Toxic Release Inventory. In 2013 (the latest reporting year), the metal mining industry was responsible for 47% of all toxic pollution in the U.S. Almost half of the toxic release in the nation came from only 88 metal mines.
No place for the most polluting industry in America
Despite the hard facts about metal mining and pollution, Red Flat Nickel Corporation (a foreign owned company) is now in the preliminary stages of developing nickel laterite strip mines in the headwaters of some of our last best free flowing native salmon and steelhead rivers.
Why does a mining company—registered in Panama and managed from Guernsey— believe it can locate one of the most polluting industries at the source of some of the purest waters and most beloved rivers on the West Coast?
Because they can under our nation’s discriminatory and unjust 1872 Mining Law. The antiquated law gives the mining company license to turn some of the highest priority conservation lands on the West Coast into industrial zones.
Parent company, St. Peter Port Capital, describes the Red Flat and Cleopatra blocks of federal mining claims as “fully owned tenements.” Their apparent sense of entitlement is chilling.
The fully owned tenements are in fact Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Coos Bay District of the Bureau of Land Management lands belonging to all Americans. They’re treasured public lands of exceptional value and worthy of the highest level of protection.
The Cleopatra claims block lies in the watersheds of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River and Baldface Creek, which forms the pristine Oregon headwaters of California’s beloved Wild and Scenic Smith River. The south edge of the claims is adjacent to the Smith River National Recreation Area. The western edge is located about a mile from the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.
Baldface Creek is a fish lovers’ dream—a pristine creek in a pristine watershed and one of the most productive tributaries of the Wild and Scenic Smith River. It so wowed Siskiyou National Forest scientists and decision makers that the creek and all its perennial tributaries were found outstanding and eligible to become National Wild and Scenic Rivers with the highest classification of “Wild.”
A second claims block is located at Red Flat about seven miles from Oregon’s beautiful Wild Rivers Coast and Cape Sebastian State Park. The Red Flat project area lies in the botanically rich headwaters of Hunter Creek and the North Fork Pistol River, two cherished native salmon and steelhead streams that flow directly into the Pacific Ocean in one of the nation’s most beautiful stretches of coastlines.
There is simply no place like the Wild Rivers Coast of southern Oregon and northern California. It’s home to the Wild and Scenic Elk, Rogue, Illinois, Chetco and Smith Rivers—each are nationally outstanding salmon and steelhead streams. Samuel Boardman State Park preserves public access to the spectacular coastline and the Redwood National and State Park system, home to the tallest trees in the nation, is breathtaking.
Currently there are two companies (Red Flat Nickel and RNR Resources) with the intent to develop nickel mines in the Kalmiopsis Rivers Country. If these mining projects are allowed to proceed we could eventually see vast strip-mined landscapes, networks of ore haul roads, acid heap leach and/or smelter processing plants, and toxic tailings lakes and/or mountains of smelter slag—all within the watersheds of some of the nation’s wildest and most beautiful rivers. This recent EPA report serves to underscore: this is no place for the nation’s most polluting industry.
Ann Vileisis of Kalmiopsis Audubon contributed to this article.