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PLAN remarks at Mining Oversight and Accountability Commission

October 31, 2013

 

TO: Nevada Mining Oversight and Accountability Commission

FR:  Bob Fulkerson, State Director, PLAN

RE:  Methyl Mercury from Nevada Mining

 

At the MOAC meeting of June 26, 2013, I raised serious allegations that the mining industry was largely responsible for methyl mercury poisoning of Nevada waters and fisheries. I cited UNR research suggesting that mercury emissions from tailings facilities and active heap leach operations are now probably double the amount of mercury being released into the air, compared to that being reported under state requirements.  I said that the technology exists to decrease mercury pollution from these sources, but neither the mining industry or the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection seems to care.  

 

In response to questions about this from this committee, the  NDEP adminstrator basically blamed sources other than current Nevada gold mining for contaminating Nevada’s fisheries and waters.

 

And she said that the NDEP mission of promoting economic development prevented her agency from coming down too hard on mining. Since none of the economic development authorities have environmental protection in their mission statements, why should NDEP’s mission include economic development?

 

More importantly, I urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to get to the truth about mercury contamination in Nevada.  Please place the issue of unregulated fugitive mercury emissions from mining tailings and heap leach operations on your next meeting agenda. We can suggest specific experts for you to invite.

 

According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, mining accounts for 98% of all toxic pollutants released in Nevada. Every day, methyl mercury from active gold mines is polluting our water and contaminating our fish and wildlife.  Please don’t let it continue to happen under your watch.

 

And in anticipation of today’s agenda regarding reclamation, in which we’re sure to hear rosy assurances of success, the General Accounting Office reported recently that: “We determined that 57 hardrock operations (in 12 western states) had inadequate financial assurances—amounting to about $24 million less than needed to fully cover estimated reclamation costs.” Nevada’s share of that $24 million is $23,853,662 (more than 99.4% of the total of the 12 western states.)  And, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the cost for cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines could run as high as $54 billion. Much of that cost could ultimately be borne by U.S. taxpayers.

 

Meantime, every year the industry takes billions in gold and other hardrock minerals without compensating taxpayers as a whole, states like Nevada, or covering cleanup costs. This must change.

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  1. Don Julio says:

    But this is not the only problem. The mining industry is also risking Nevada’s workers’ health and safety at Jerritt Canyon. When is teh Commission going to look into that? The news needs to follow-up on the job-creation lies that the mining lobbyists were representing to the Legislature last session.

    The job-creation conditions in Elko are deteriorating rapidly. This seems to be due, not to taxes, but primarily due to poor decisions made by out-of-state managers at corporations who have no personal stake in Nevada. This topic seems relative to the controversy surrounding the potential to have the mining tax protections removed from the Nevada Constitution. Recently, there have been Multi-Billion dollar losses by both Barrick and Newmont.

    Additionally, there were hundreds of MSHA citations at Jerritt Canyon over the last few years, coupled with their recent failure to fulfill their debt obligations. Last time Veris Gold’s management acted this incompetent, 400 residents in Elko were out of work – BLINDSIDED – because Not one of the news agencies wanted to upset the pro-mining advocates that the area is plagued with! And, What about layoffs at other mining service companies?

    With the removal of the Mining Tax protections being an issue on the ballot, there needs to be some follow-up on why Nevada miners are losing their jobs when out-of-state managers are blowing profits made from Nevada’s gold, on risky mining failures in other countries. The mining industry does less for its employees then what it does for the State of Nevada- which is less then every other industry in Nevada – so why does the mining industry need protections that are not afforded to more responsible industries, like gaming: http://lasvegascitylife.com/sections/opinion/damned-pundit/hugh-jackson-nevada-funds-mining%E2%80%99s-big-mistakes.html

    Jerritt Canyon, in December alone, received 61 MSHA citations, and despite MSHA being on the property, management continued to fail to ensure miner’s safety. 2 employees were injured, causing the mill to get shut down, which caused more then 100 employees to be laid off, which also caused Veris Gold to default on their obligations to one of the banks financing the operation. And guess who was the plant’s manager? Kiedock Kim, who is being tried for felony EPA violations for his last mining disaster in California. His buddy, Kuhn, is on the fugitive list!

    KiedocK Kim was appointed as the Plant Manager at Jerritt Canyon on June 21, 2013. http://prn.to/MJcKZh

    In September of 2013, Administrative Law Judge Miller ruled that Jerritt Canyon’s Safety Director was guilty of intimidating MSHA inspectors. http://1.usa.gov/1fbbDsg .

    In December of 2013, 2 miners were injured at Jerritt Canyon due to an electrical explosion. http://bit.ly/MJcKZl.

    Shortly thereafter, Veris was hit with 61 MSHA citations for December, alone. Joseph Main made the comment, ““These two examples clearly indicate that some mine operators still don’t get it,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “They simply failed to comply with the Mine Act and find and fix hazards to protect miners from
    injury, illness and death.” http://1.usa.gov/MJcMQI

    Although Veris Gold’s management claims they have an exemplary safety record, citing that nobody has been killed (although they clearly forgot about the fatality involving Michael Stowe: http://www.msha.gov/FATALS/1996/FTL96M43.HTM#.Uwt_v4VRPyI).

    However, employees have been injured and disfigured, such as the incident in the electrical explosion in December of 2013, not to mention that the Safety Director was found Guilty by Judge Miller for intimidating MSHA inspectors (as noted above). http://bit.ly/MJcMQN

    In January of 2014, Veris Gold defaulted on 2 large debt obligations that Veris Gold’s management entered into with Deutsche Bank as a result of their unsafe work practices. Despite adjusting their production estimates, Veris’s management did not disclose to investors that it was more probable than not that they would default on the obligations. http://yhoo.it/MJcKZn

    But there are other concerns that could impact production, such as the competency of their management, and their failure to conduct thorough pre-employment background screening.

    IN 2011, “The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added the former chief executive officer of French Gulch Nevada Mining Corp and Bullion River Gold Corp to its ‘fugitive’ list. ” “The mine’s former superintendent, Kiedock Kim, is also a defendant in the case. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail. http://bit.ly/MJcMQR

    The mine was fined US$37,500 by state water-quality officials in 2007.” The hearing on defendant Kim’s motion to dismiss in the case of U.S. v. FRENCH GULCH NEVADA MINING CORPORATION shall be continued from January 16, 2014, at 9:00 a.m., to February 20, 2014, at 9:00 a.m.
    http://1.usa.gov/MJcLfD

    Other documents regarding the U.S. v. French Gulch Nevada Mining, et. al. and Jerritt Canyon’s Plant Manager, Kiedock Kim can be found here: http://1.usa.gov/MJcMQT

    So, Crowley, you are very wrong if you really believe you have full support from Nevada’s citizens that the special tax treatment for the mining industry in the Nevada Constitution will remain – you don’t even have the support of some miners, as hundreds are facing a situation where they may lose their homes, and are struggling to find work and keep their children fed. Thanks to the mining industry blowing Nevada’s profits on bad international investments, instead of finding ways to keep miners employed during the downturn in gold, Nevada workers have been forced to find work elsewhere, which is hard to do in Elko due to the lack of economic diversity. Nevada Mining Association, don’t bet on a slam dunk. Rather, even some miners think it’s time to ride the pine, and would like to see the mining industries protections removed from the Constitution. Nevada, stop giving your gold away, and vote to remove the Mining Tax Cap from the Nevada Constitution!

    • Don Julio says:

      Kiedock Kim, the same co-conspirator who is wanted by the EPA for the environmental disaster at French Gulch, is also the plant manager at Jerritt Canyon. There have been hundreds of MSHA violations out there in the last 2 years, and since Kim started managing the plant, Jerritt Canyon managed to rack up 61 MSHA citations in December – in just 1 month – and 2 miners were severely injured – which caused the mill to shut down, 100+ employees to be laid off, and..AND, caused Veris gold to default on their Debt Obligations to Deutsche Bank. Newmont sends some of their ore to Jerritt Canyon under a toll-milling agreement, but yet they are able to insulate themselves from liability for outsourcing some of their production to an unethical, irresponsible, incompetently-ran company.

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