Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Mountaintop-removal mine resurrected in Wyoming Black Hills


The divide between the Little Missouri and the Belle Fourche drainages is not very wide at the Missouri Buttes in northeastern Wyoming. At that location it's not difficult to visualize how the Clovis People migrating into the region some 12,000 years ago seeking shelter and food sources found their way into lands free of glaciation. There are at least 23 prehistoric sites near Devils Tower National Monument (Mahto Tipila) some of which are archaeological treasures eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

But today more Canadians are taking advantage of Wyoming's continued assault on that portion of the Black Hills. A mine intended to remove Bull Hill from the headwaters of the Beaver Creek drainage in the Bearlodge Ranger District then replace it with a pile of waste rock could pollute the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers even worse than they are now.

In January of 2016, the US Forest Service suspended the Draft Environmental Impact Study for a Wyoming Black Hills mountaintop-removal mine that would take minerals containing elements like neodymium and praseodymium extracted from the Belle Fourche watershed. In 2017 Rare Element Resources said its project to strip mine a part of the Bearlodge Mountains just upstream of the South Dakota border had a new investor and applied for enough water for the mineral separation process despite widespread contamination in Crook County wells.
Rare Element Resources (RER) has announced it will spend the first nine months of 2019 completing a pilot plant campaign to verify all the steps in its proprietary process of separating rare earth elements. Whether the Bear Lodge Project is revived after that study will depend on an evaluation of the results. The Forest Service confirms that it has not yet been asked to resume the permitting process, according to Scott Jacobson, Public Information Officer. As to what it would take to relaunch the process, he says: “For us to get things going would really depend on what the company would propose to do. The company suspended operations three years ago so we would need to assemble a team of various specialists…review the company’s proposal and get the NEPA process started again. If the company decides to start up again, our timing would depend on if they would like to proceed with their plan of operations from three years ago, or if there are changes.” [Sundance Times]
Acid mine drainage can kill or cause birth defects in the birds and mammals that happen into contaminated standing water on these sites. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso and the other Earth raping Republicans are working overtime to defund environmental protection, especially on public lands.
In pursuit of riches and energy over the last 5,000 years, humans have released into the environment 385,000 tons of mercury, the source of numerous health concerns, according to a new study that challenges the idea that releases of the metal are on the decline. [Science Daily]
If human activity has released all those tons of mercury, would it not follow that we have also released proportional amounts of carbon?

The US is beginning to get religion on existing rare earth stocks; we have more buried in landfills than all other developed countries combined. Japan recovers most of her needs from the waste stream.

ip photo: Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower at sunset.

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