Focus on the main mining issue…

I’m not a huge fan of mining but I am a big fan of what mining provides. I like being warm in the middle of January in my house. I like driving my car and riding my bike. All that is possible in part because of mining. So it is easy to understand why mining is important.
Given that, it is hard to be against all mining. So the best a reasonable person might ask is that mining is responsible. What is responsible will always be a conflict between those who mine and those who are opposed to the operation. So we leave it up to our elected and appointed representatives to make sure the general public is protected and mining takes place in a responsible manner.
Gunnison County has been grappling with the responsible mining issue for years now. It is at a point where they have been given some local authority to oversee gas development through the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. That is a good thing. Being reasonable is a good thing. The general public will get to weigh in next month over the proposed county regulations that are somewhat stricter than state regulations.
To me the absolute most important thing that must come out of these regulations is protection of our water and the water in the North Fork, where much of our food is grown. There can be no margin for error. It appears this week that a viable solution has been reached, with a 150-foot buffer between mining operations and water bodies. I’m not sure that is enough. I just don’t know yet. I know one of the mining companies is okay with that buffer distance and another has stated they will speak against it and fight it. That’s to be expected.
What our county commissioners must focus on before making any final decisions, is simple: Are these regulations strong enough to protect our water? Not to fine a company after something bad happens but to prevent that bad thing from happening. They must be 100 percent sure that the general public is able to drink and use the water. The commissioners should spend some of their time and resources investigating that matter to the Nth degree between now and the August public hearing.
Mining is not evil. But mining does pose potential problems that could have dramatic long-term impacts. Being reasonable is necessary. But there is nothing reasonable if our water becomes poisoned. It won’t matter that my house is warm, or the peaches are ready or my car is working. If our water is tainted, no one will be able to live here anyway. That needs to be a big focus of our elected officials.

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