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Bohemia health threats overstated.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By W. Don Reeder For The Register-Guard

We are an organization of independent miners who are concerned that The Register-Guard's recent series, "Mining's Toxic Legacy," misrepresents our activities, our interests and mining in general.

By focusing only on a few worst-case scenarios such as the Formosa Mine and neglecting the hundreds of abandoned mines that are nonissues, the series coaxes readers to generalize that these worst-case scenarios are representative.

That is simply not true. The state has more than 250 mercury mines and more than 450 gold mines, most of which are abandoned. Many have been abandoned for decades, and even though they have not been subjected to reclamation efforts, require an experienced eye just to be located.

Some mines are simply incapable of producing significant pollution because of their geology. Since acidic mine waste is produced by the oxidation of sulfur-bearing ores, mines that involve other ore types don't produce acid.

For example, Oregon has more than 280 abandoned chromium mines. Since chromium ore is composed of oxide minerals, these mines have no acid runoff. Placer gold mines don't generate acid runoff because the gold already has been freed naturally from its sulfur-bearing ore.

Of the mines that tap sulfur-bearing ore (most of those 450 gold mines), the great majority of them are not significant sources of acid runoff.

Contrary to the June 29 article - the headline of which is a monument to hyperbole: "Bohemia: A mountain of pollution" - the Champion Mine is located in a mountain of volcanic rock. That mountain is not Bohemia Mountain, and the mine is not a significant source of pollution.

But don't take our word for it. The engineering evaluation and cost analysis report commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service and indirectly referred to in the article contains a "streamlined human health and ecological risk assessment" in Appendix B. It states, "The only likely current and future receptors identified for the site are hikers, campers and hunters."

Page 13 summarizes the search for 54 "chemicals of interest." It says, "The quantitative risk assessment determined that no unacceptable noncancer health risks are anticipated" and "arsenic and cadmium were the only (carcinogens) identified at the site. A quantitative risk assessment determined that concentrations of arsenic in surface water did not result in unacceptable excess cancer risk.

`Risks from ingestion of soil and sediment and dermal contact with soil exceeded the Department of Environmental Quality's regulatory standard ... but was within the acceptable Environmental Protection Agency risk range. ... No hotspots were identified in soil or sediment."

Ecological risks pop up on Page 14: "(W)hile terrestrial plants and invertebrates within the site boundaries may be impacted, the populations and those of other wildlife receptors are unlikely to be significantly impacted within the vicinity of the site. ... In addition, the habitat lost due to any effects on plants is also unlikely to result in significant effects to upper trophic level species due to the large amount of relatively undisturbed habitat available surrounding the site.

"Aquatic receptors such as invertebrates and resident fish ... may be impacted within Champion Creek. Given the very small size of Champion Creek in the vicinity of the site, it is unlikely that populations of wildlife species will be significantly affected by contaminants of potential ecological concern in Champion Creek."

Since we have seen frog populations living in the rocks and water within a few feet of the mine portal, we can only agree.

But don't worry. The government sees fit to spend $1.4 million cleaning up a nonissue anyway. Perhaps these tax dollars would be better spent at the Formosa Mine, or on policing the drug labs that dump toxins in our forest or, if cancer is really the concern, donated to medical research.

Finally, the article's pontification against the 1872 Mining Law states, "(M)iners could buy the surface land over their claims for $5 an acre," but somehow neglects to mention that miners also had to pay up to $50,000 for application fees and surveys.

Our miners have no problem with reclamation or with reasonable bonding amounts. We have, however, had problems with environmentalists vandalizing our equipment and interfering with our activities. Inflammatory, skewed articles, such as "Mining's Toxic Legacy," foment additional criminal activity against us.

If we are going to follow The Register-Guard's methods, perhaps we should demonize all newspapers for pollution of the facts, since The Register-Guard seems to be the Formosa Mine of the state's newspapers.

W. Don Reeder of Eugene, a member of the Bohemia Mine Owners Association, prepared this column on behalf of Vince VanHouck, the association's president, and Lyn Perkins, corresponding secretary.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 14, 2006
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