Promising news about gold-mine cleanup |

Promising news about gold-mine cleanup

Allen Best

CRESTED BUTTE – The old silver and gold mines of a century ago continue to make news in the Rocky Mountains. The trickle of water laden with heavy and hence toxic metals from the mines does in some cases reach levels that threaten human health. More commonly, however, the polluted water is found in concentrations that harm fish and the bugs they eat. A case in point are several creeks in the Crested Butte area such as Oh-Be-Joyful, Slate River, and Coal Creek. Before the mining era, such streams supported populations of the native fish, cutthroat trout. But, reports the Crested Butte News, cutthroat have been obliterated.Efforts to restore the streams continue. In the Gunnison Basin, state water officials have agreed to a more stringent standard for two pollutants, cadmium and zinc. “Anywhere there’s historic mining in the state, the fish populations are dampened,” says Steve Glaser, a water activist from Crested Butte.In the Crested Butte area, a federally funded cleanup of the Standard Mine is likely under the nation’s Superfund legislation. Also, as permits are given for water treatment centers, they will be required to improve their treatment, to release fewer of the heavy metals. As well, grants have been received for cleaning up old mine tailings, such as was the case at the Peanut Mine near Crested Butte.But the problem of old mines is nothing if not complex. Under current federal law, anybody tackling remediation at abandoned mine sites risks getting assigned perpetual responsibility for cleanups. This has discouraged action in many cases.Both the mining industry and the environmental groups have vetoed solutions for the last six or seven years, but new bills before Congress may have bridged the gap between the two.The Summit Daily News reports a promising bi-partisan agreement between two Colorado congressman, Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Bob Beauprez.Altogether, Colorado has 17,000 abandoned mines, and a good many are in Summit County, where the attention has been focused on Udall’s and Beauprez’s “good Samaritan” legislation.Mines also litter the hillsides above Interstate 70 and Clear Creek, a major water supply for a portion of metropolitan Denver. The Summit Daily tellingly points to a mine that is issuing 20 gallons of water per minute. At that rate, the mine adds 20 pounds of heavy metals to Clear Creek every day.Banff pays tribute to major mountain guideBANFF, Alberta – People in the Canadian Rockies were grieving the loss of Hans Gmoser, described as “a father figure for a whole couple of generations of young mountain guides.”Born in Austria in 1931, Gmoser arrived in the Bow River Valley in the early 1950s, when he was in his early 20s, and began working as a mountain guide. In 1957, he founded Canadian Mountain Holidays. Later, his company began offering helicopter-assisted skiing in the Bugaboo and Cariboo mountains.”In these parts, he’s as great as they get,” said Marty Von Neudegg, an official with the company that Gmoser had founded. He was 75 when he died of what the Rocky Mountain Outlook reported was a road-bicycling accident near Banff. He had remained a strong, avid roadbiker and Nordic skier to the end.Vail, Colorado

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