LEAVE NO PITS BEHIND!
CALIFORNIA STATE MINING RECLAMATION REGULATION REFORM
ISSUE SUMMARY PAGE
UPDATE: 4/10/2003 Permanent Backfill Regulations Passed Unanimously! No More New Open Pits Will Be Left Behind
State Mining and Geology Board website has the Permanent Regulation Changes
Castle Mountain Mine next to the Mojave National Preserve - mining stopped - reclamation proceeds - but the open pits will remain (click for larger version)
LEAVE NO MORE OPEN PITS BEHIND
CALIFORNIA LEADS NATION IN MINING RECLAMATION
PROBLEM: MANY HUGE ABANDONED OPEN MINE PITS
Most of us haven't seen up close the impacts of the new open pit cyanide heap leach gold mine process. Digging huge open pits, discarding piles of waste rock, crushing the ore rock and pouring cyanide over the top to get a toxic solution containing minute amounts of gold has become the standard method of mining our public lands. When the ore runs out they leave behind the open pit which often fills with polluted water. Numerous abandoned open pits exist in California and often the public must foot the bill to maintain environmental and public safety.
NEW CALIFORNIA REGULATIONS REQUIRE BACKFILL
In December the California State Mining and Geology Board, appointed by Governor Davis, passed new temporary mine reclamation regulations which require all new open pit metallic mines to completely fill up any open pit they dig (called backfill) and return the site to its original contours ready for another use than mining. This ruling is really just calling for strict enforcement of existing California law: the mined lands must be returned to useful condition has been the standard since the 1970s. At this point other states have not made complete open pit backfill a requirement. California is first in demanding that these lands be returned to a useful and safe state and that the costs be considered part of the mine's cost.
BOARD TO VOTES TO MAKE RULES PERMANENT
The Board has voted unanimously on April 10th, 2003 to make these regulations permanent. The Board staff prepared material which graphically illustrates the damage that has been allowed to occur under the old regulations. With support from the Secretary of the California Resources Agency, Mary Nichols, the board adopted the both the permanent backfill requirements as well as extending the temporary regulations until the permanent ones take effect in a month or so.
Many environmental groups concerned with the damage that open pit mining has on our public lands were surprised but pleased when they were told of the State Mining and Geology Board's action. California should lead the way in requiring those who benefit from the resources from our lands to return them functioning condition has been a common feeling. Several environmental groups were part of the coalition supporting the proposal including:
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)
Sierra Club California
California Wilderness Coalition
Great Basin Mine Watch
Friends of the Panamints
Center for Biological Diversity
Desert Protective Council
The California Mining Association opposed this regulation. They have asked that less restrictive measures be adopted but were defeated as no amendments were put forth by the board members at the 4/10/03 meeting. In particular, the Briggs Mine in Panamint Valley next to Death Valley National Park, was told that the intent of the Board is that any new mine pit in the new exploration area would be covered by the complete backfill requirement.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION REACTION?
We have yet to hear from the Bush administration on this state initiative. If they follow past patterns we are likely to see them siding strongly with the mining industry even though they are funding millions and millions of dollars of abandoned mine clean-up.
GOVERNOR DAVIS SUPPORTED MINING RECLAMATION REFORM
This issue is certainly to be one of several which positions California as a strong defender of environmental protections in the face of Bush administration roll-backs. Here in mining reform, the state has moved ahead, as it has with car emissions, and folks all across California need to show support to keep our state green and its old mine pits filled.
Briggs Mine Open Pits, Inyo County
This mine is currently in production and has been since 1996, digging the open pits shown here in Southern Panamint Valley. They have been approved to explore for new ore in an area three to six miles north of this site. The new regulation requiring backfill should apply to any new open pits outside the already approved area shown in this picture.
Pictures on this page courtesy of the staff of the California State Mining and Geology Board
Questions - Bob Ellis: email@example.com Tom Budlong: TomBudlong@adelphia.net
Briggs Mine Main Page Action - Press Release and Comment Info Open Pits Photo Album