Cyanide Mining in Summit County, Colorado
August 1, 2004
Cyanide heap leach mining involves four main steps: 1) Create huge open mines and remove large pieces of ore; 2) Spray cyanide, a toxic chemical, in large quantities on the newly mined heaps of rock; 3) Wait for the cyanide to drip through the heap and slowly extract tiny particles of gold and silver; 4) Repeat steps 2-4, collecting any gold or silver. In Colorado, this destructive mining process started in the late 1980s, and by now has led to cyanide spills, river kills, contaminated drinking water, and numerous other environmental disasters that have cost Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars. In response, Summit County (and four others) decided to take matters into their own hands by enacting a countywide ban on any type of cyanide mining. Sierra Club recently joined a lawsuit to help Summit County defend this regulation from an outright attack by the Colorado Mining Association.
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