Victory for transparency and public information on mining decisions

Colorado mining board votes to protect environment and improve accountability

On August 12, 2010 the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board voted unanimously, 7 to 0, in favor of an open public process and clean water protections in mine prospecting decisions.



The rulemaking decision caps events that started when Crested Butte-based conservation group High Country Citizens’ Alliance (HCCA) first contested the complete confidentiality associated with a decision made by the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety approving a proposed new mine tunnel excavation on Mt. Emmons.
In 2008 the confidential issuance of that prospecting permit for watershed affecting activities on Mt. Emmons was a factor leading to the passage of Colorado Senate Bill 228 that, in turn, led to the recently completed rulemaking. Last week’s decision by the board was the final enactment of the new protections into Colorado law.
HCCA was a formal party to the rulemaking process, providing written and oral testimony during the 15-month process. The group sought rules allowing the public to comment on prospecting permit applications and the ability to seek administrative review of prospecting permit decisions.
HCCA executive director Dan Morse applauded the new rules, saying, “HCCA is extremely pleased that the state mining board saw the wisdom in allowing the public to know about prospecting proposals, to comment on them and to appeal permit decisions when the situation warrants. The impacts of preliminary mine prospecting and development activities can be just as significant as later phases of mining and need to be reviewed in a thorough and credible manner with complete transparency.”
Jeff Parsons, senior attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, represented HCCA during the rulemaking process before the state mining board and said, “These rules put Colorado in a much better position to protect its communities and natural resources against the impacts of mining, and to ensure public involvement in important mining decisions.”
The new mining rules include specific provisions that:
—Increase transparency of mine prospecting information: putting Colorado in-line with neighboring states by requiring that mining companies disclose the when, where, and how mining operations will occur to ensure the public is fully informed about potential impacts. Truly proprietary information such as size of the ore body would remain confidential.
—Require mining companies to notify local government about mine prospecting operations.
—Allow administrative review of mine prospecting decisions: providing, for the first time ever, an appeal process for the affected public and local government of mine prospecting decisions.
—Baseline water quality testing: affirming the mining division’s ability to determine whether baseline water testing is needed at hardrock exploration and mining projects.
High Country Citizens’ Alliance is a grassroots organization whose goals focus on the health and biodiversity of the local environment—land, water, air and wildlife. They collaborate with interested and affected parties to reduce global warming and protect public lands, endangered species, rangelands and water resources. They integrate expert analysis and scientific research with environmental education, informed debate and policy participation. The mission of High County Citizens’ Alliance is to champion the protection, conservation and preservation of the natural ecosystems within the Upper Gunnison River Basin.

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