For the week of August 26 thru September 1, 1998  

Price of neglect

Dakota Mining Corp. abandoned its gold mine on the South Fork of the Salmon River and left the mess for the public to clean up. The company voluntarily gave up an $800,000 reclamation bond.

State officials said they are not sure how much it will cost to clean up the Stibnite mine, which includes pools containing a cyanide solution. The pools must be monitored all day, every day, to prevent leakage and damage.

If cleanup costs more than the bond, it will fall on taxpayers to pay for it.

The abandonment is an example of all that is still wrong with the mining industry and its friends, the Idaho Legislature and Congress.

Idaho has always been a state where dirty industries could escape from paying the true cost of operations. The Legislature has always been exceedingly reluctant to "meddle" in the affairs of industry.

It wasn’t until last year that the Idaho Legislature passed a law that allows the state to require unlimited bonding to cover the costs of future cleanup. That’s small consolation in a state that already has hundreds of abandoned mine sites in need of clean up.

The Stibnite mess is one more reason to reform federal mining laws. It’s one more reason to place the costs of cleaning up old abandoned mines where they belong—with the polluters. Companies should not be allowed to leave a mess behind in one state and engage in operations elsewhere.

With schools crumbling, prisons bursting at the seams and roads that could make a mule skinner cry, Idaho’s budget will be hard pressed to pick up the tab.

Idaho should not have to sacrifice its clean environment or its bank account so unprincipled industrial polluters can turn a profit. Those days should end.

To end them, Idaho needs leaders who are not bought and paid for with fat campaign donations from polluters. It needs leaders who will stand up to them and make sure hard-working Idahoans aren’t forced to pay the price of legislative neglect.


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