Mining claims encroaching on Western population centers
Mining claims on federal land in the West are coming increasingly close to urban areas, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group. Thanks to a spike in the value of many minerals — and antiquated U.S. mining law, which is highly prospector-friendly — there are now 51,600 hardrock claims within five miles of Western population centers, nearly double the count in 2003. Las Vegas and the Phoenix area both have more than 5,000 claims within a five-mile radius. While fewer than 5 percent of claims are likely to actually be developed into mining operations, greens are still antsy. Mining accounts for more toxic Superfund sites than any other industry, and also requires a lot of water, which the West doesn’t really have to spare.