Friday, August 22, 2014

Unthinkable Canadian Mine Spill Makes Penokees' Disaster Thinkable

It didn't get enough publicity in the US, so thanks to long-time La Crosse professor and resources expert Al Gedicks for his op-ed in the Journal Sentinel about a massive mining accident in Canada that experts figured couldn't happen:
On Aug. 4, more than a billion gallons of mining waste spilled into rivers and creeks from a tailings pond at Imperial Metals' Mount Polley gold and copper mine at the headwaters of the Fraser River watershed in the interior of British Columbia. Indigenous First Nations peoples mostly populate this area. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Co., the volume of the spill would fill 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It is the largest mining disaster in Canadian history.
The Biblical-level of flood contamination brought home a central caution about modern engineering, human fallibility and the corporate bottom-line: 

"They" - - and you know who they are - - always say it - - and you know what the "it" is - - can't happen because of gee-whiz technologies and engineering miracles (Google Three-Mile Island; the Concorde; Enbridge pipeline spills; Rocky Flats radioactive waste, GM ignition switches, Thalidomide...), and when "it" does, guess who's left holding the bag, health consequences, financial costs?

Gedicks' piece is a must-read on its merits, and as background to understand what is at stake in the pristine Bad River watershed upstream from Lake Superior in NW Wisconsin.

That's where the continent's largest open-pit iron mine is proposed with the blessing of Scott Walker, a legislature beholden to special interests and an out-of-state coal mining firm which have assured the public that all will go well when miles of forested hills are blown up and waste rock leaching toxic runoff for 35 years is piled on the area's land and waters.

To hear the company tell it, when they're done with the site it's going to be Disney-North.

I'd noted the risks earlier and reiterated them when the Canadian disaster struck.
You may remember that we took a look at the potential for calamitous slides and spills in the Bad River watershed where an open-pit, mountain-top iron mine, waste pile and wetlands filling is being proposed.
Our interest was peaked when a company spokesman said it had plans to take care of any potential slide and waste spills during 35 years of mining as they hope to turn the mine pit (4.5 miles long, 700 ft. deep, and a mile wide at a minimum) and all that waste rock into a nice new swimming hole and recreational hill planted with new trees.
Here is a link to the posting from 14 months ago... 
        MONDAY, JUNE 24, 2013
As GTAC Plans Waste Rock, Mine Debris Dumping For 35 Years, Consider...

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