Federal agency predictions that mines would not pollute water were wrong, study says

Before giving a precious-metal mine the go-ahead, federal agencies must find that the operation will not taint surrounding waterways with chemicals like arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, and cyanide. But for the past 25 years, agencies’ pollution predictions “did not generally agree with reality,” says Ann Maest, coauthor of a new study by green group Earthworks. The group suggests regulators may rely heavily on the word of industry-hired consultants, rather than past mine experiences and adequate sampling. In response, industry officials suggested that mines that went bust, were abandoned, or weren’t built to high environmental standards should not have been included in the study. To which we can only say, “Wha?” And we’ll follow that up with a “Whaaa?”: Federal regulators have given a mining company permission to dump 4.5 million tons of waste into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake, a move Greg Peck of the U.S. EPA calls “the most environmentally protective way to protect these waters.”