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06/24/2009

Supreme Court Allows Toxic Gold Mining Waste in Alaskan Lake

This past Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a permit that would allow a gold mine to dump its waste directly into a freshwater lake, killing all its fish and aquatic life.  The court ruled 6-3 and reversed a May 2007 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which had found the mining permit in violation of the Clean Water Act.  The Supreme Court is now saying that the Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation's Kensington gold mine near Juneau pumping 200,000 gallons of a toxic wastewater slurry every day directly into Lower Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest is not a violation of the Clean Water Act.

Lion's Head Mountain

Lion's Head Mountain, at the base of which sits Kensington Mine

The dumping, which will take place over 10 years, will fill the bottom of the lake with 4.5 million tons of solid waste and kill all life in the lake.  This decision is based on a 2004 Bush Environmental Protection Agency memo that expanded the definition of 'fill' material that could be dumped directly into bodies of water to include toxic, industrial wastewater slurries.  The memo, it should be noted, was informal and was never subject to any sort of public notice or comment.  And this decision sets an extremely dangerous precedent for other mining operations in Alaska and around the country.  The Obama administration should reverse this grievous 'fill' rule and revise the informal memo before we lose any more of our waters and the communities that depend on them.  The rule of law must be restored to the Clean Water Act.  

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