OPINION PIECE BY KATHERINE KELLY
The news of the nickel strip mining proposal for the tributaries to the North Fork Smith River is a nightmare in the making. I can’t even imagine how such a proposal could benefit Curry or Del Norte counties. The mining company is foreign owned and little financial benefit will trickle down to local communities or state’s coffers.
What we will get is environmental destruction and pollution. I read an article in the Pilot a month ago about the same issue in Gold Beach, with Red Flat Mining Corp. wanting to drill in sensitive areas on Hunter Creek and Pistol River. To quote from the Pilot article (Gold Beach council’s vote may hamper mining project, Feb. 19, 2014):
“The United States got into mining during World War II, when it realized it imported all its nickel for its fighting planes. The only nickel mine in the nation, the Glenbrook Mine in Riddle ceased operations in 1993 after 40 years of activity.
…The land in Riddle now comprises 39,000 cubic yards of contaminated material, huge slag piles and holding ponds. In 1997, Glenbrook Nickel was named the third-largest toxic polluter in the state, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory.”
People should know the history of the Devil they’ve invited to the dance. Even with the promises of restoration after the operation concluded another quote from the same Pilot article shows a bit of history to the contrary:
“Typically…hard-rock strip-mining firms have a poor reputation when it comes to reclamation. Commonly, the company mines an area, declares bankruptcy and leaves the mess behind.”
Looking around the country, this seems to be modus operendi for industrial polluters who leave toxic contamination behind for the locals to clean up, or pollute community water sources and offer no remedy or compensation. It’s delusional to think it won’t happen here. And since the operations proposed are upstream from our local drinking water source, special consideration should be given to protect our waters and our citizens.
A previous industry, logging, left behind some serious environmental damages that no one seems to either know about or care about. Pollution of tetrachlorophenol (TCPs), tentrachlorophenol (TCTs), dioxins, and furans, used in wood treatment processes which cause cancer in humans are still in the soil and groundwater left behind by the log ponds behind Safeway. Skulpins, a bottom feeding fish in Elk Creek were discovered to contain dioxins. This area was a Superfund site left by the previous owners for the state and local community to deal with. There are still toxic chemicals in the ground there.
Do we really want to destroy what makes us unique? Our forests and natural water ways need to be protected from those with short memories and flat out denial. It could never happen here? It already has and will happen again if we turn over our resources to a corporation that doesn’t have to live with the destruction left behind. They move on to another target, bank accounts bulging and devastation in their wake. We The People need to stop this environmental-devastation-for-profit before we’re left holding the bag…full of contaminants…or water we can no longer drink.