Westerners for Responsible Mining is an unprecedented alliance of western residents and organizations and non-westerners who cherish our rural communities, landscapes and resources. We have come together to ensure that these communities, water resources, and special places in the West are protected from the adverse impacts of irresponsible mining practices and a lack of corporate accountability in the hardrock mining industry.
We recognize and appreciate that for some westerners, mining has provided employment and local economic activity. But we also know that mining continues to take its toll on the West. Years of dependence on one industry has resulted in a lack of balance. While providing benefits to some, hardrock mining poses serious threats to the livelihoods, water supply, and recreational enjoyment of many, many other residents and visitors.
This imbalance is expected to worsen as the industry proposes new mining operations to take advantage of elevated prices of metals, like gold, copper and silver. As a result, the timing could not be better for concerned westerners and others who care about the West to come together to ensure that the industry learns from past failures and respects the resources we share.
More than a century of short-sighted mining practices and a lack of corporate accountability at currently operating mines have created legendary problems throughout the region: contamination of ground and surface water by cyanide, arsenic, mercury and acidic and radioactive compounds; depletion of dwindling ground water sources; reckless disposal of mining and milling wastes; destruction of spectacular landscapes and recreational venues, and disruption of sensitive ecosystems.
Westerners for Responsible Mining will address these problems in a pragmatic and reasonable way. We recognize the significant role that minerals and metals play in our daily lives. But we also know that mineral production should not, and need not, come at the expense of fundamental western values, including:
– safeguarding community health;
– maintaining clean water;
– sustaining rural livelihoods; and
– protecting irreplaceable recreational and sacred sites.
Those widely shared values are bringing together ranchers, environmentalists, anglers, hunters, conservationists, and Democrats and Republicans alike to help usher in a new era of responsible mining. Critical to this effort will be recognizing the important — and difficult — role played by local elected officials. The need for diversification and expansion of local economies presents an ongoing opportunity to work together to achieve changes in the mining industry that can contribute to a future that is more stable and sustainable.
The hardrock mining industry, on the other hand, has largely demonstrated a persistent disregard for those values in deciding where to locate mines and associated facilities, choosing how the mines are operated and closed, and avoiding taking responsibility for the damage that occurs when things go wrong. Not until hardrock mining companies incorporate these fundamental values into the very fabric of their decision making can their behavior be deemed responsible.” Until then