Yellowstone Oil Spill Underscores the Need for Better Protection for Western Waters

July 6, 2011 • Bonnie Gestring

This week s Exxon pipeline leak of 42,000 gallons of oil into Montana s famed Yellowstone River demonstrates just how quickly inadequate regulations translate into real harm to western waters, and the communities and businesses that rely on them. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently taking public comments on new guidelines that will determine which western waterways are considered waters of the U.S. and therefore protected under the Clean Water Act.

Some recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have muddied the water, and these guidance documents will go a long way towards clarifying this important issue.

The EPA estimates that more than 117 million Americans get their drinking water from public supplies fed in whole or in part by intermittent or ephemeral streams vulnerable to pollution thanks to current confusion.

Thank you to Blue Nile

July 1, 2011 • Bonnie Gestring

Thank you to Blue Nile!

It s that time of the year when the wild salmon are making their annual epic journey from the ocean up into the headwaters of Alaska s Bristol Bay to spawn. It s an amazing force of nature on average some 40 million salmon strong! And, it s the economic engine for the region - supplying some 50% of the world s commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon!

No wonder there s so much support for protecting this sustainable salmon fishery, and the communities and hardworking commercial fishermen who rely on it, against the proposed Pebble mine. The Pebble gold and copper mine, proposed by UK-based Anglo American, would dispose of up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste in the Bristol Bay Fishery Reserve.

Responsible jewelers across the company have lined up in support of Bristol Bay protection, pledging not to source gold from the Pebble mine, should it be developed. The most recent signatory is on-line jeweler Blue Nile Inc. It joins over 50 other jewelers in making this commitment towards responsible gold sourcing. Check out the full list of jewelers at http://www.ourbristolbay.com/pledge-signee.html

We thank them for it. And, 40 million salmon do too!

 

 

Good news for Montana’s rivers & streams: cyanide mining bill vetoed!

May 20, 2011 • Bonnie Gestring

Good news for Montana's rivers and streams!

Last week Montana's Governor Schweitzer vetoed a bill (SB 306) to overturn Montana s ban on open pit, cyanide leach mining.

Every major open pit, cyanide leach mine in Montana has caused significant water pollution, and taxpayers have been left with tens of millions in clean-up costs. Drinking water supplies, agricultural lands, and native trout have suffered.

Citizens took matters into their own hands in 1998, when Montanans first passed a citizen's initiative against open pit cyanide leach mining, and then again in 2004, by an even larger margin (62%). This year, a Montana legislator introduced a bill to undermine the initiative, at the request of the Montana mining industry.

Thank you Governor Schweitzer for vetoing the bill, and upholding the will of the voters!

Urge Governor Schweitzer: Veto the repeal of the cyanide mining ban!

April 4, 2011 • Bonnie Gestring

Last week, the legislature passed SB 306, which would effectively repeal Montana s ban on cyanide leach mining. SB 306 was introduced by Sen. Murphy at the request of the Montana Mining Association.

The bill is now headed to the Governor s desk. Governor Schweitzer needs to hear from you!

The repeal is against the will of the voters

In 1998, Montanans voted to approve I-137, a ban on new open-pit cyanide leach mines by 52% to 48%, and then reaffirmed the cyanide ban in 2004 (I-147) with an even stronger vote of 57%.

Montana s record of cyanide leach mining is abysmal

Every major cyanide leach mine in the state has caused severe water pollution contaminating important drinking water supplies, trout streams, and agricultural lands!

Taxpayers paying millions to clean up cyanide mines

We can't do this without you!

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Gold: Substance, Symbol and Significance

March 22, 2011 • Bonnie Gestring

New York A conference on gold that will examine all aspects of the metal from jewelry design to mining is scheduled to take place at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on April 8 and 9.

Organized by Initiatives in Art and Culture, a New York-based organization dedicated to educating diverse audiences about fine, decorative and visual arts, the Friday-Saturday conference, called Gold: Substance, Symbol and Significance, will feature a number of key jewelry industry players and executives.

Those scheduled to speak include Victor van der Kwast , head of jewelry for ABN AMRO bank, Bonnie Gestring from Earthworks, Bill Williams of Barrick Gold Corporation, Jewelers of America s Robert Headley, David Lamb, managing director of jewelry for the World Gold Council, and jewelry designers such as Temple St. Clair and Marilyn Cooperman.

During the two-day event, the panelists will address topics including fluctuating gold prices and investment, modern mining and sustainable mining, the impact of the recent conflict minerals legislation and the history and development of gold coins and gold jewelry.

In addition to the speakers, the two-day event will include an evening reception at the Aaron Faber Gallery and a screening of the documentary Red Gold, which details the fight over construction of the proposed Pebble mine along Alaska s Bristol Bay watershed.

First ever federal oversight of mercury air pollution from gold mining

February 18, 2011 • Bonnie Gestring

Today, at long last, the first ever federal regulations go into effect that create emission limits for mercury air pollution from gold mining.

Bass FishingWe became aware of the need for these regulations thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory, which requires large polluters to publicly and annually report their pollution.

When the issue was initially identified in 1998, gold mining was the 2nd largest mercury air polluter after coal power plants. (Metal mining was and still is the largest total mercury polluter -- by far -- when you count land and water releases in addition to air.)

This is an important issue because mercury air pollution is very toxic. Children of women exposed to relatively high levels of methylmercury during pregnancy show delayed onset of walking and talking, reduced neurological test scores, and delays and deficits in learning ability.

Third strike for the Rock Creek Mine proposal. Hopefully, it’s out.

June 23, 2010 • Bonnie Gestring

Strike three for the Rock Creek mine proposal
It s good news for our ongoing effort to protect Montana s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area and the area s threatened bull trout and grizzly bear populations from the proposed Rock Creek Mine.  

On May 5, 2010, a federal court tossed out the mine permit, saying it fails to minimize impacts to water quality and fisheries.  

This is the third time that the court has ruled against this project.  The mine must now go back to the drawing board to develop a revised plan.  With your support, we will continue our efforts to protect this important ecosystem.

Strike... four? The fisheries challenge in Montana State Court
In 2008, EARTHWORKS and our partners also contested a permit issued by the State of Montana, challenging the large amount of sediment that the mine is expected to discharge into Rock Creek, a lower Clark Fork tributary that supports a crucial population of bull trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. State water quality law prohibits anyone from discharging sediment into state waters at levels that will harm fisheries. That case will be briefed in front of the Court in September.

For more information:

Modernize the 1872 Mining Law: Missoulian

February 16, 2010 • Bonnie Gestring

February 9th, the Missoulian (in Montana) ran an excellent opinion column calling for the modernizing of the 1872 Mining Law.