DOING SOME DIGGING – Trash to Treasure

How do you dispose of a worked out open pit? It turns out you don't. Instead you use it for disposal of household t...
How do you dispose of a worked out open pit? It turns out you don't. Instead you use it for disposal of household trash. That is the plan for the Denton-Rawhide gold mine near Fallon, Nevada.

Readers of CMJ and our Net News will recall a similar plan proposed for the Adams mine near Kirkland Lake, Ontario. The proposal involved hauling garbage from Toronto and dumping it in the abandoned iron ore pit. Environmentalists were outraged. Local residents who supported the plan pointed to much-needed employment. A 14-year-long battle ended earlier this year when the Ontario government introduced a bill to permanently remove the mine from consideration as a landfill site. (See Net News for April 7, 2004.)

The outrage seems to be missing from the Denton-Rawhide plan. It is being touted as a win/win situation. A win for environmentalists in that the site will eventually (perhaps in 70 years) be returned to its natural state before mining began. A win for partners PACIFIC RIM MINING of Vancouver and KENNECOTT RAWHIDE MINING because the deal will earn them over $100 million. They get tippage fees instead of reclamation costs.

Pacific Rim and Kennecott signed a deal at the end of October that would allow NEVADA RESOURCE RECOVERY GROUP of Reno to use the Denton-Rawhide pit as a landfill for non-hazardous municipal waste. NRRG will pay tipping fees amounting to an estimated US$103.6 million over the next 42 years. The deal was to close on Oct. 31 if the joint venture could secure certain small parcels of land, the state approved of using the mine as a landfill, and NRRG signed municipal waste contracts. Local jobs, tax revenues and other fees would benefit the community and the state.

Why the seemingly quiet acceptance of a landfill plan in Nevada, when a similar plan for northern Ontario caused a huge outcry? Are there no environmentalists in Nevada? Sorry, that's rhetorical; we know there are. Are the good citizens of the Silver State too busy with concerns over nuclear waste dumps to notice proposals for municipal waste dumps? The difference in the reactions to the Denton-Rawhide and Adams mine proposals is inexplicable to this writer. I guess we'll have to wait several decades to see if dumping garbage in Nevada mines is the boon it is hoped to be.


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