WOULD TRUCK IN UP TO
200 TONS OF CYANIDE A YEAR
TO THE HEADWATERS OF THE WOLF RIVER
The Wolf Watershed Educational Project
AT THE CRANDON MINE
Sodium cyanide would be used as a chemical reagent or solvent to dissolve out metals from the ore in the "flotation process," particularly gold and silver. There are significant amounts of gold and silver at Crandon; the DNR estimates as much as 1,100,000 ounces of gold, and 63,000,000 ounces of silver. Northern Wisconsin also has several other gold and silver deposits.
The Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC) proposes to transport up to 20 tons of cyanide per month to the Crandon mine site. Cyanide and other toxics such as sulfuric acid pose environmental risks from transportation and storage at the site and also from residuals in the waste dump and in the waste back-filled into the abandoned mine shaft. DNR consultant Andres Trevino reported that if NMC uses truckloads of cyanide at the highest estimated rate, a one-month inventory would be 18-20 tons. If the mine were to operate for 28 years, over 6,000 tons of cyanide would be required. Trevino reported that most of the residual cyanide would end up in the pyrite concentrate that is proposed to be back-filled into the mine shaft, potentially in contact with groundwater. At least some residual cyanide would end up in the waste tailings dump.
Cyanide can be treated to become less toxic, but Trevino does not report that NMC is proposing any active destruction of the toxic chemical. Instead it appears that NMC simply expects any leftover cyanide to break down naturally in the waste dump pond when exposed to sunlight. But colder temperatures, such as in northern Wisconsin, can stop the breakdown of cyanide.
DISASTERS AT MINES
Colorado. Cyanide spills from the Summitville gold mine contributed to severe environmental problems on a 17-mile stretch of the Alamosa River. It is now a federal Superfund site, with cleanup costing $170-200 million.
Montana. Mines had 62 spills or leaks of cyanide in 1982-98. The Zortman- Landusky cyanide heap leach gold mine had repeated leaks and discharges, resulting in wildlife deaths and severe contamination of streams and groundwater.
Nevada. The Gold Quarry mine released about 245,000 gallons of cyanide-laden waste into two local creeks. In 1989 and 1990, a series of eight cyanide leaks occurred at the McCoy/Cove gold mine, releasing almost 900 pounds of cyanide.
South Dakota. In 1998, 6-7 tons of cyanide-laced tailings spilled from the Homestake Mine, killing fish in Whitewood Creek, Black Hills.
Guyana. In 1995, over 860 million gallons of cyanide-laden tailings were released into a major river when a dam collapsed at the Omai gold mine.
Australia. The Northparkes copper-gold mine in New South Wales killed 2700 birds in 1995.
Kyrgyzstan. A truck transporting cyanide to the Kumtor mine plunged off a bridge in 1998, spilling 2 tons of cyanide into local waters. Papua New Guinea. A helicopter crash in 2000 released cyanide bound for a gold mine.
Romania. A huge February 2000 spill at the Aural gold mine destroyed much of the Tisza River ecosystem in Hungary and Yugoslavia; thousands of dead fish floated into the Danube.
WEAKENED MINING LAWS
State Statute 160.19(12) says that metallic mines are exempt from the state Groundwater Protection Law. Statute 291.35 says that metallic mining waste is not subject to the state�s stringent Hazardous Waste Management Law, even if it contains cyanide. Mine waste is instead regulated by DNR rules based on weaker standards for solid waste disposal. Unlike state statutes, the DNR has the power to grant variances and make changes to its own rules without legislative approval or public input.
Montana voters in 1998 banned the use of cyanide in mining, halting new sulfide mine permits. The Czech Republic banned it in 2000. Wisconsin is thus behind these two historic mining areas in its environmental laws; although Vilas and Oneida counties have also banned cyanide. The company planning the Crandon mine claims that its vat flotation process is safer than the heap leaching process, but this does not address issues of cyanide waste disposal or transportation of 200 tons of cyanide a year on our roads. The Crandon mine would also open the door to mining several gold deposits that would be processed with cyanide.
YOU CAN DO TODAY
ASSEMBLY BILL 95 says simply: "No person may conduct mining or metallic ore processing using cyanide or a cyanide compound." Over 10,000 Wisconsin citizens have signed a petition to ban cyanide in Wisconsin metallic mines; similar resolutions have been passed by local government, sportfishing clubs, tribes, and environmental groups.
1. Contact Assembly Environment Committee Chair Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn), urging him to allow AB95 to move forward to a vote. If you are a fellow Republican, say so!...Call toll-free 888-534-0043 or e-mail Rep.Kedzie@legis.state.wi.us
2. Call your your Assembly Representative and State Senator to sign on to Assembly Bill 95 prohibiting cyanide use in Wisconsin mines, (even if you don't know who they are) toll-free at 800-362-9472, and tell them you are a constituent. Also contact Governor Scott McCallum to sign AB 95, at (608) 266-1212 or email@example.com . You can write him, your reps, and Rep. Kedzie at the State Capitol, Madison WI 53702.
3. Print out a resolution for your group or local government to pass at http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/cyanide.html You can also print off a petition and background information. Use this information to write letters to the paper and ask media to cover mining's use of cyanide.
4. Keep in contact:
Wisconsin Campaign to Ban Cyanide in Mining, c/o Wolf Watershed Educational Project, P.O. Box 14382, Madison WI 53714-4382 Call the toll-free Hotline at (800) 445-8615, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (For documentation or interviews, e-mail email@example.com, call 608-233-8455 or 246-2256; log on http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/cyanide.html )