Gold mining has retained none of its glamour from prospector days of yore, and it is still one of the dirtiest businesses around: Mile-deep open pit mines continue to emit a staggering amount of pollutants—20 tons of waste and 13 pounds of toxic emissions for a single ring’s worth of gold. And who, may I ask, is being held accountable for all this damage? Well, basically, you. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that national parks, such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite, are being left to clean up after nearby mines, costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year.
Mother Jones has been keeping tabs on the gold mining industry’s waste for a while now. But this time, in light of the issues raised in the L.A. Times article, let’s take a look at the problem from the perspective of presidential hopeful Ron Paul, who, it seems, has no particular use for the EPA or for any other big-government efforts to protect the environment:
Governments don’t have a good reputation for doing a good job protecting the environment….You should be held responsible in a court of law and you should be able to be closed down if you’re damaging your neighbor’s property in any way whatsoever.
If that’s the case, and until the Libertarian Party has its way with us and transfers all public parks to private ownership, the government is accountable for preventing or at least recouping their (that is, all of our) damages in cases where a mighty gold mining company is polluting federally funded parkland. To that end, the House has recently passed legislation that would put royalty payments into place and establish environmental standards for mining operations and cleanup, as well as additional protection measures for parks, wild and scenic river corridors, and roadless national forest areas.
Next up—the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV-D), Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM-D) and Senator Pete Domenici (NM-R), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have pledged to reform the out-of-date legislation despite pressure from powerful mining lobbies. A Senate bill has not been drafted as of yet, but on the bright side, there is still time enough to strike that sketchy gold bauble from your holiday wish list.