Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

U.S. Mines Pollute Up to 27 Billion Gallons of Water Annually

Health + Wellness

 

Earthworks

A new report released yesterday shows existing U.S. hard rock mines (e.g. gold, copper, uranium) will pollute up to 27 billion gallons of fresh water per year and cost as much as $67 billion per year to clean, in perpetuity. Based on government data, Polluting the Future: How Mining Companies Are Polluting Our Nation's Waters in Perpetuity also reveals that four proposed mines could annually pollute an additional 16 billion gallons.

The Brohm Mine (Gilt Edge), which operated from 1988-1996,will require water pollution in perpetuity due to severe acid mine drainage.

“The scale of the problem is enormous, and growing,” said Bonnie Gestring, reports author and Earthworks' Northwest 0rganizer. She continued, “Every year, mines will pollute enough water to fill 2 trillion water bottles—enough bottles to reach to the moon and back 54 times.”

“Agriculture, energy development, municipalities and fish and wildlife are already competing for increasingly scarce water resources,” said Gestring. “The difference is, when these mines ‘use’ water, they pollute it forever.”

The primary cause of this lasting pollution is well understood. Mines that expose sulfide-bearing ore generate sulfuric acid—otherwise known as acid mine drainage.

“No hard rock open pit mines exist today that can demonstrate that acid mine drainage can be stopped once it occurs on a large scale,” said Dr. Glenn Miller, professor of environmental science at the University of Nevada.

Because acid mine drainage can’t be stopped, once started it must be treated until the acid generating material runs out. As acknowledged in government mine permitting documents, this can take hundreds or thousands of years.

Acid mine drainage from Zortman Landusky mine, which operated from 1979-1997, yet water pollution will continue in perpetuity.

Four new mines are currently proposed at which perpetual water pollution is predicted or considered at high risk by mining companies or government agencies. These mines could generate an estimated 16 billion gallons of contaminated water per year. One is the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which threatens the nation’s largest wild salmon fishery.

“We simply shouldn’t permit a mine at high risk for perpetual pollution, when it’s proposed in the midst of the nation’s most valuable wild salmon fishery,” said Bonnie Gestring. “It’s simply unfair and irresponsible to pass that legacy along to the many communities and businesses that rely on the fishery for their livelihoods.”

Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

More than 1,000 people were told to evacuate their homes when a wildfire ignited in the foothills west of Denver Monday, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Read More Show Less

Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. mixetto / E+ / Getty Images

Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. New research has found that 5.4 million Americans were dropped from their insurance between February and May of this year. In that three-month stretch more Americans lost their coverage than have lost coverage in any entire year, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
Heat waves are most dangerous for older people and those with health problems. Global Jet / Flickr / CC by 2.0

On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.

Read More Show Less
Nearly 250 U.S. oil and gas companies are expected to file for bankruptcy by the end of next year. Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Fracking companies are going bankrupt at a rapid pace, often with taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives, leaving harm for communities, taxpayers, and workers, the New York Time reports.

Read More Show Less
Trump introduces EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler during an event to announce changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The changes would make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without considering climate change. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, voiced support for safe reopening measures. www.vperemen.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA

By Kristen Fischer

It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Critics charge the legislation induces poor communities to sell off their water rights. Pexels

By Eoin Higgins

Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.

Read More Show Less