• New report: Effect of open-pit gold mines on groundwater lingers long after production, profits and jobs are gone

    Growing concerns over the medium and long term impacts of open-pit gold mining on Nevada’s water were validated earlier this month when Dr. Tom Myers presented his third report on the effects of mine dewatering and pit lake formation on Humboldt River flows. PLAN traveled to Elko and Lovelock to share the findings of the most recent study with residents and impacted farmers. Read local news report from the meetings in the Elko Daily Free Press and Lovelock Review-Miner.

    Read Dr. Myers’ full report and presentation on what happens to ground water after mining ends and the pit lake fills with water, or check out our summary below.

    Open-pit gold mining impacts our water –
    even after production, profits and jobs are gone

    While the mine is in operation:

    • Over the course of a decade, companies carrying out open pit mining drain the aquifer of groundwater that took hundreds or thousands of years to accumulate. This quick suck significantly lowers the water table.
    • Mining companies claim they put more than half of the water back into the basin, but this is not the same as leaving water underground, in storage. Dewatering forces us to use the water now, instead of planning for the future.

    FACT: Since 1991, 3.9 million acre feet of water was pumped from open pits in the Humboldt River Basin. One acre foot, or 326,000 gallons, is enough water for a family of four for one year. That means mines have pumped enough water to support 3.9 million Nevada families.

    Immediately after mining ends:

    • Water pumping ends and the giant pits begin to fill up with ground water. This causes a slow suck of the water table over the course of decades. The slow suck results in a decrease in the water table and less water in the river. Increased flows while a mine is in production is due to water being pumped from the pit and discharged to the river.
    • Data from Newmont’s Lone Tree pit lake shows significant water loss in the Humboldt river since the company stopped dewatering the mine in 2007.

    FACT: Since 2007, the water being wasted to fill up the Lone Tree pit could have supplied nearly 9,000 families for 20 years (176,00 af between 2007 – 2016).

    For the foreseeable future:

    • A pit lake lasts forever, so that means water lost to evaporation off the pit lake will also be eternal.
    • 10,000 acre feet a year are lost to evaporation – the mining industry might say this number is insignificant, but we believe mining companies should not be allowed to waste any water, no matter the amount.

    FACT: In 18 years, we will have lost 180,000 acre feet of water to evaporation – the same amount Las Vegas wants to pump from Northern Nevada.

    Now consider the medium to long-term impact of dozens of open pit mines scattered across the state. Is open-pit gold mining the most sustainable and responsible use of our precious water?

    Recommendations to protect our future:

    • Require that pit lakes are reclaimed for post-mining beneficial use.
    • Demand enforceable water quality regulations on pit lake water.
    • Require the mining industry apply for water rights on evaporative losses from pit lakes.
    • Reform “temporary” water permits for mine dewatering to require companies to regularly justify water use as compared to other demands. Currently, these “temporary” permits for mining are valid for decades, but are not even calculated in overall water allocations.
  • My first protest – a reflection by PLAN intern, Brendan Gault

    My name is Brendan. I am a 23 year old student at the University of Nevada Reno. On June 14th, 2016, I was privileged to attend my first peaceful demonstration. The BLM was attempting to auction off public land for oil and gas, including fracking, in the Smoky Valley region of central Nevada. As an intern at PLAN focusing on renewable energy and climate justice issues, and a concerned citizen, this egregious use of public lands is in direct contrast to the goal of %100 renewable energy for Nevada.

    13428645_10207960061651753_4527845659748362784_n

    Flag made during the art build on June 13th (Photo: Bucky Harjo)

    They held this “public” auction on the private property of the Siena Hotel. So PLAN and it’s partners formed a coalition with the goal of stopping this auction and letting the BLM know our loathing of this heinous proposition.
    My experience started the day before during the prep for the demonstration. The organizers wanted to use art of all types to help communicate our message to the BLM and the oil and gas companies. So we gathered to make visual pieces of art for the event and spent the afternoon creating and connecting. This was a very big part of the process for me personally because it helped to show we weren’t alone while, building a strong sense of community and investment toward our common goal of stopping fracking operations in Nevada. We were united.

    On the day of the demonstration we gathered together early and moved our people and art pieces into position a couple of blocks away from the scheduled auction. The performances began as more people arrived. Before I knew it I was surrounded by 150 like-minded people with the singular goal of protecting our beautiful state. The energy and sense of community amongst the crowd was powerful! There is something magical about a group of people gathering for a singular purpose. Before we began the march we had a moment of silence. The crowd silenced in solidarity ever building the feeling that we were here united.

    Then we began to march towards the Siena. I took up position in the middle of lead banner, which I didn’t plan, but felt compelled by the energy of the crowd. So we started off toward the auction the power of our message grew as 150 people all chanted our message together. The cries of people echoed through the streets as we approached the hotel where the auction was being held. As we approached the Siena we were met by their security guards. The security isolated who they believed was our leader and violently slammed him into the ground drawing blood. The treatment of our fellow angered the crowd but we turned our anger into motivation. It seems that they thought that by taking down “the leader” they could take away our momentum, but this was a movement of the people and could not be silenced.

    13394159_10207960036411122_3076206844416092020_n

    At the Siena, inside the abandoned BLM auction room (Photo: Bucky Harjo)

    We took the energy of the assault and used it to enter the hotel. The lobby filled up behind me as we made our way to the stairs leading up to the auction, but we were again halted by two security guards. But the movement would not stop. Someone maneuvered around the line of security and we flooded up the stairs and into the auction room. We were met with an empty room and news that the people attending the auction had fled. They refused to hear our message. We occupied the room for about 20 minutes in case they came back, but eventually we moved back outside to avoid further arrest and harm to our  people.

    When we came outside the scene on the streets had changed dramatically. A large police presence had showed up, including a helicopter circling above. One thing that amazed me was how well the police treated us. They blocked off the street and allowed us to speak our peace – and speak it we did. Along with our message we demanded the release by the Siena security team of our fellow protesters. We achieved the release of two out of the three. After they were returned to us we begin our march down the street back to our starting point. The police were very considerate and blocked off our path for us.

    As I look back on my first demonstration I have this new sense of empowerment. The political process is often so noisy that it seems too busy to make anything out and too loud for the people to be heard. However, despite the chaos, we can be heard when we are united. United we can make a difference. Together we can stand up against those who take advantage of those less fortunate. We can stand up against the wasteful and destructive use of our precious resources. We can stand up for our rights. And most importantly we can win – or at least that is how I feel after my first demonstration. I just have one question for you. Will you stand up too?
    By Brendan Gault

  • Nevada Students Speak Out to Defend Water

    PLAN recently sponsored a Water over Gold essay contest in which students engaged in a conversation about the impacts of mining on our water and communities. A three-judge panel awarded top prizes to Katie Sitton from Nevada State College and Jade Utterback from West Career and Technical Academy.

    Pipeline view from above 2016

    Barrick Gold’s Pipeline mine as seen from the Cortez Hills mine (Photo PLAN)

    “We could not be happier with the thoughtful and well-researched essays we received from all the participants and want to thank community leaders and teachers for encouraging students to get involved” said PLAN Las Vegas organizer, Erika Castro.

    In their essays, students expressed their disappointment in the failure of the government to act in the best interest of regular Nevadans, instead offering tax breaks to transnational corporations. Currently, Nevada is the top gold producer in the US and one of the largest in the world all while enjoying rock bottom tax rates.

    Students were also critical of mining’s impact on their communities’ water and expressed concern about the generations to come. Contest winner Jade Utterback wrote, “Nevada, possessing a warm, dry, desert climate, is already facing serious problems in terms of water accessibility due to the severe drought. We can’t risk polluting our already-limited water resources from mining gold.” Read Jade’s full essay here.

    Reese River 2016

    The mighty Reese River (Photo PLAN)

    While the essay contest focused on the importance of water over gold, many students dug deeper to address other negative impacts from mining including erosion, ecosystem disruptions, and health hazards. They offered ways to raise awareness about irresponsible mining among their peers and community, and the need to become responsible consumers.

    Nevada students showed they care about their community and its future. College student and contest winner Katie Sitton ended her essay with a question. “Most people may argue in favor of the mining industry, saying that they are great for the economy and create jobs, but is it really worth it to leave this planet in declining conditions for our future generations?” Read Katie’s full essay here.

    Here at PLAN we echo essay judge and former Senator Sheila Leslie who stated, “I enjoyed reading the student essays about the impact mining has on Nevada’s lands and people. These students already understand that our future depends on doing a better job protecting our natural resources and balancing the need for jobs with the negative and sometimes hidden costs of mining in our state.”

  • Hundreds rally to defend Nevada’s ground water, demand an end to leasing of public lands for oil and gas

    27393120740_8cdb3572f9_k

    Outside the Siena (Photo Rainforest Action Network)

     

    Hundreds of people rallied yesterday to demand an end to the leasing of Nevada’s public lands for oil and gas. Armed with hand-made flags, banners,  a 12 foot mock oil rig, and a human oil spill,  13417701_10207960025530850_5305568705520863607_nwe used the power of our voices and the strength of our bodies to protect our ground water, communities and wildlife from dirty extraction.13419176_1291468420882899_5915694811776997587_n-1 We called for a just transition to renewable energy – not 450 billion tons of potential carbon pollution. Our protest disrupted the sale and sent a clear message that we will not sit back and allow our land and water to be destroyed. Read the press release here.
    27393125370_7104ff87c7_z
    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held the lease auction – a public hearing – on private property. As a result, Siena Hotel management was allowed to keep us out, something they wouldn’t have been able to do if the hearing were at a public venue. 27392105040_d98e0f054f_zWhen the hundreds of concerned citizens tried to enter the Siena, PLAN state director was abruptly taken down by hotel security guards using excessive force, causing minor injuries to his knee, jaw, chin, and ribs. A student was also tackled by hotel security and arrested as he tried to enter the auction room. Both were charged with trespassing.

     

    The BLM used taxpayer funds to pay a private hotel to bar the people from an auction of public lands and public resources. 27060311113_2235a961f3_zA leader asked police why  private corporate rights trumped the right of the people to access a public meeting. He couldn’t answer. The public still doesn’t know where the BLM auction took place as the room where it was scheduled to occur was empty. What we do know is that the BLM and their industry buddies conduct their climate-killing business in secret.

    Prior to yesterday, we focused our ire on the fossil fuel industry, but now it’s clear the BLM is in cahoots with the fossil fuel industry to ensure fracking and other dirty fossil fuel extraction continues unimpeded from public participation or transparency. And while the BLM still managed to give away 3,764 acres of our land to the fossil fuel industry, we will not back down!

    The threat to our 27670685065_8550009746_zplanet is real and the fight for climate justice must continue. Thanks for standing with us. We’ll see you on July 29th at the Governors’s energy committee hearing in Carson City, and at the next BLM lease auction in Reno, December 13th!

     

     

    Photos thanks to Rainforest Action Network and Bucky Harjo.

    Check out the links below for more photos and video from the protest and art build.

    Photos and Video from the Potentialist Workshop – organizers of the human oil spill

    Arts Organizing Workshop and Art build by Monique Andrea

  • Why we fight to “Keep it in the Ground”

    In May PLAN and Great Basin Resource Watch traveled to central Nevada to visit lands slated for auction at the upcoming Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction on June 14th.

    BSV Road View

    View of Big Smoky Valley (Photo PLAN)

    The 42 parcels on the auction block cover over 74,000 acres in the majestic Big Smokey Valley. The land was nominated for the BLM lease sale by a Texas real estate developer without the knowledge of most of the residents living and farming near the potential fracking sites.

    Reese River Valley 2016

    Reese River Valley (Photo PLAN)

    Fracking is environmentally risky and has the potential to contaminate drinking water. In Nevada, water is especially precious – it is the lifeblood of farmers and ranchers across the state.

    By keeping fossil fuels in the ground we are protecting our ground water and aquifers. To avoid catastrophic warming, scientists estimate that approximately 80% of proven fossil fuel resources need to stay in the ground. Here in Nevada, serious challenges to water users and wildlife are already being felt as a result of our changing climate. For more information about official protests filed against the BLM lease sale in the Reese River and Big Smokey Valleys, click here.

    Join us next week to send the message that our public lands are not for sale! Rally to Keep it in the Ground on Tuesday June 14th at 8am. Meet us at the Virginia Street Bridge in downtown Reno before we head to the BLM live auction at the Siena Hotel on South Lake Street. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

    We also traveled to Crescent Valley where Barrick’s Cortez Complex is located, which includes the Pipeline and Mt. Tenabo open pit gold mines.

    Pipeline from above 2016

    PLAN staff Ellen Moore and Erika Castro, and Great Basin Resource Watch director, John Hadder get a birds eye view of the Cortez Complex. (Photo PLAN)

    Destruction to the Mt. Tenabo Western Shoshone spiritual and cultural region has proceeded at an alarming rate, although not unexpected rate. Barrick reported nearly 500 million dollars in net proceeds from the Cortez Complex in 2014.

    Mt Tenabo June 2016

    Mt. Tenabo – the wall of Barrick’s open pit mining operation extend up the sacred mountain. (Photo PLAN)

  • MEDIA ADVISORY: The legacy of open pit mine dewatering and pit lake development

    RENO, NV — On Friday June 3rd in Reno, hydrologic consultant, Dr. Tom Myers will present his latest research on the long-term effects of dewatering and the formation of pit lakes on the flow of the Humboldt River entitled “Effect of Open Pit Mine Dewatering and Cessation on a Semi-arid River Flows”. The report expands on Dr. Myers’ June 2015 study, “Hydrogeology of the Humboldt River Basin, Impacts of Open-Pit Mine Dewatering and Pit Lake Formation,” which sought to deepen understanding regarding the long-term consequences of open pit mining on the Humboldt River watershed and aquifers, and the impacts on communities and ranchers living in the region.

    An executive summary of the report can be found here.

    Dr. Myers will also present the report in Elko on June 8th from 4:30 – 6:30 pm at Great Basin College, Room GMCML 219, and in Lovelock on June 9th from 12:00 – 2:00 pm at the Pershing County Community Center. The 2015 and 2016 report was commissioned by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

    WHEN:
    Friday, June 3rd
    12:00 pm

    WHERE:
    Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
    203 S. Arlington Ave.
    Reno, NV 89501

    CONTACT:
    Ellen Moore, emoore@planevada.org, 775-348-7557

  • Demanding accountability for abuses in Guatemala and the Comstock

    On Thursday, April 21, PLAN and the Comstock Residents Association (CRA) held a press conference in front of the Nevada Mining Association to denounce Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) illegal operations at its Progreso VII Derivada gold mine in Guatemala. KCA’s exploitation license was suspended by Guatemalan Courts in July and November 2015 and the Ministry of Energy and Mines in March 2016, but mining continues. Read the press release here.

    IMG_20160421_141630

    PLAN also visited KCA’s office to personally deliver the Court rulings and the Ministry of Energy and Mines order to suspend exploitation activities.

    President and founder, Daniel Kappes was not in, and unfortunatly his staff refused to receive our letter requesting he clarify the state of operations in Guatemala and respect the rule of law. Mr. Kappes did provide a statement to the Reno Gazette-Journal claiming that the mine was both operating legally and suspended due to lack of consultation with impacted communities.

    Members of the peaceful opposition who have camped outside the mine entrance in protest for four years report that clandestine operations – clearly not those of a legally operating mine – continue.

    Daniel Kappes, is also on the board of directors for Comstock Mining Inc. Comstock operates the highly controversial open pit mine near Gold Hill and Silver City and is a member of the Nevada Mining Association. PLAN and CRA also delivered a letter to the Nevada Mining Association calling on it to do the right thing and demand Kappes to respect the law and suspend operations in Guatemala.

  • PLAN celebrates approval of federal funds for Anaconda toxic mine clean up

    On March 29th, Governor Sandoval approved the EPA’s request to list the Anaconda copper mine as a Superfund National Priority. This designation, more than 10 years in the making, means federal funds will be available for long-term, integrated clean up of the toxic site located near Yerington.

    On March 25th, PLAN, Great Basin Resource Watch and 42 other individuals and organizations sent a letter to the Governor requesting immediate action in the face of an increasing threat to the families, farmers, wildlife and Tribes living in the region. PLAN also called on the Governor to defend the right of affected citizens, many who have been forced to drink bottled water for the past decade, to clean and safe groundwater.

    PLAN applauds the Governor for taking this important step and reiterates our demand that he and other elected representatives take concrete steps to hold mining corporations accountable for the contamination and abuse of Nevada’s groundwater in other parts of the state.

  • Take action against fracking in Nevada

    This morning our state director sent the following message to our activists. Take a look, and take action to stop fracking in our state!

    TakeAction

    Dear Activist,

    Our friends at the Western Organization of Resource Councils just sent this compelling alert on how you can influence new Bureau of Land Management policies on fracking on federal lands. I’ve pasted it below and encourage you to submit comments today! 

    Since our state has not acted to protect Nevada from the dangers of fracking, we must demand federal regulators step in before our fragile lands and precious waters are completely plundered.
    Thanks!
    Bob

     

    Begin forwarded message:

     

    Dear Bob,

    This is our last week to tell the Obama Administration that its rules for fracking federal oil and gas wells don’t do enough to protect clean air and water.

    Send your comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today.

    Fracking pumps toxic, cancer-causing chemicals into the ground, threatening water resources. It fouls the air and can lower property values.

    Last spring, the BLM first proposed new rules for fracking on federal lands – and for private lands that lie over oil and gas owned by the federal government. They were a good start but, unfortunately, the White House and BLM gave in to pressure from the oil and gas industry and proposed different rules headed in the wrong direction.

    The latest requirements for public disclosure of chemicals and well safety tests are weaker, not stronger.

    Tell BLM that people living near oil and gas drilling need stronger protections for their health, water, air, property and quality of life.

    BLM’s fracking rules should:

    • End the use of open pits to store fracking wastewater.
    • Require all wells to be tested to make sure they are isolated from groundwater. 
    • Require disclosure of chemicals before fracking.
    • Require oil and gas companies to do baseline water quality tests to document whether contamination occurs after drilling and fracking, and share the results with residents.
    • Set “no drill” zones around homes and water supplies.

    To comment, go to WORC’s Action Page by noon, Friday, August 23. We’ll deliver your comment to the BLM before the close of the comment period.

     

    Best Wishes,

    Keep up with WORC on Facebook.

    Subscribe to WORC Action Alerts & News Updates.