Gold mining fairy tale

Dear Benett,

Let me cut to the chase: I love the Bodie Hills. As a Mono City homeowner, the Bodie Hills are literally my backyard. I recreate in the Bodie Hills year round: I both ski and hike there. I have seen more wildlife than most places, as well as unparalleled wild flower shows.

I am concerned there is a fairy tale circulating in North County. It goes something like this: Cougar Gold explores for gold in the Bodie Hills. They strike it rich, and bring lots of jobs and money and other amenities like ball fields and hospitals to our area. When the gold is all mined, they restore the Bodie Hills to the degree we never even knew they were there. I LOVE this fairy tale. Like most folks who live around here, I am totally struggling to make a living…I’d love more jobs and money in this area. I’d love a hospital in Bridgeport!

Unfortunately, my experience tells me otherwise. I have driven through many towns in Nevada and Utah where I’ve observed such nice amenities – in fact, fancy ballparks often jump out at me. However, what strikes me is the contrast between the boarded up buildings, how run down the ballparks look, a general feeling of a very depressed town, juxtaposed against the evidence of once-upon-a-time wealth. The sight of tailing piles, and learning about what a mess the town is now left with, tells the real story.

My research and experience also tell me that the reality (as opposed to the fairy tale) goes something like this: at first the town is really happy…jobs are created, and local businesses do well. But then folks start to notice that along with the money and jobs, the crime rate is also going up, and there are more bar fights and drugs. Often a series of trailers are moved into town somewhere – trailers that make FEMA trailers look good. Then when the mine closes (say the price of gold goes down….could happen), we discover that the mining company didn’t allocate enough money for the restoration, they declare bankruptcy, and the taxpayers are left to clean up the mess.

In fact, that is exactly what happened with Galactic Mining Company in Summitville, CO in 1992. Remember Galactic? They wanted to mine in the Bodie Hills. However, their plans fell through due to a small inconvenience called bankruptcy. Turns out their Summitville gold mine had been leaking cyanide into the Alamosa River watershed, and in fact, destroyed 15.5 miles of river. When Galactic walked away, we, the taxpayers were left to foot the $200-million clean-up bill.

We already have one superfund site up the road at Monitor Pass. But not to worry — Cougar Gold’s CEO reassured folks at their town hall meeting (2/15 Bridgeport) that Rough Creek drainage flows into Nevada, so if they did contaminate the water, it wouldn’t be Bridgeport’s problem. (Yes, he really said that!!!)

Margy Verba

 
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