Thursday, August 13, 2015

Grizzly Gulch tailings impoundment breach would be catastrophic


Update, 14 August, 0830 MDT: looks like other media outlets are covering the potential for catastrophic breaches in the Black Hills. Homestake reclamation efforts ongoing and CO Mine Wastewater Spill Highlights SD Cleanup Plan and The Outdated Law That Helped Lead To The Massive Mine Spill In Colorado.

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Homestake Mining Company has a Superfund site in New Mexico, too.
Because of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law, companies take federal (read: publicly owned, by you, the taxpayer) minerals with no royalty payments and are generally allowed to operate on any federal lands they select, regardless of public opposition. Even more heinous, new mega-mines are allowed to be built even though it’s clearly understood that they will have to treat acidic, metal-laden runoff for thousands of years at extreme cost. Not only are we allowing companies to take minerals for free, but we’re telling them it’s OK to create the same type of permanent water treatment liabilities that polluted the Animas. [Major Colorado mine waste spill highlights urgency for comprehensive mining law reform]
Logging out the basin for the Grizzly Gulch Tailings Disposal Project above Pluma and Deadwood in 1977 helped to launch this blogger's love of the Black Hills.

Homestake Mining Company that also operated the sawmill near Spearfish, hired a local contractor who gave a farm boy and School of Mines dropout a skidder job. Future neighbor, Jim Whitlock wrote the proposal for an upgrade to the project.
Last Monday, a dam holding waste from the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in the remote Cariboo region of British Columbia broke, spilling 2.6 billion gallons of potentially toxic liquid and 1.3 billion gallons of definitely toxic sludge out into pristine lakes and streams. That’s about 6,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water and waste containing things like arsenic, mercury, and sulphur. Those substances are now mixed into the water that 300 people rely on for tap, hundreds from First Nations tribes rely on for hunting and fishing, and many others rely on for the tourism business. And thanks to lax government regulation in the US, an estimated 39 percent of tailings-pond dam failures happen in the states — a rate higher than anywhere in the world. Just six months ago, a pipe at a coal slurry pond in North Carolina opened, leaching 1.1 billion gallons of sludge into a river. [Tailings Ponds are the Biggest Environmental Disaster You've Never Heard Of]
Former Rapid City Journal reporter, Bill Harlan, became public relations representative for the underground lab built into the former Homestake/Barrick property. He writes:
Our water treatment plant removes iron from water pumped from underground. Under an agreement with Homestake Mining Co., we also treat water from the company’s Grizzly Gulch tailings impoundment, which contains trace amounts of ammonia. [press release]
Harlan wrote in March, 2004:
Erosion and flooding after big fires pose threats to people, property and the environment. The Galena Fire did cause flooding and erosion in Custer State Park. For example, in 2002, mud ran down the streets of Deadwood after the Grizzly Gulch Fire. [Fire boosts creek flow]
The issue is a perpetual threat:
The problem in Canada, the US, and elsewhere is that no one knows exactly what to do with these ponds. Much of the sludge they contain is too toxic to remediate and let back into the environment. As of now, the plan is to just let them sit there and hope they don’t fail.
Cook Lake Recreation Area in the Wyoming Black Hills has been closed due to landslide activity.

The GOP-owned South Dakota Department of Ecocide and Nepotism Resources says the Grizzly Gulch impoundment, a bird killer for most of its history, is good to go until 2035.

Unless it's not.



Reed Richards is an attorney practicing in Deadwood and Spearfish: he is also Treasurer for the Lawrence County Democrats.
The Rapid City Journal recently applauded the EPA for its actions on the Gilt Edge Mine disaster. Why don’t South Dakota newspapers do some reporting on why the EPA has had to declare the area a Super Fund Site?
The record is clear. In the 1980’s, Gov. Bill Janklow and his Republican toadies forced through the approval of the Brohm Mining permit (it’s good for business, you know) even though knowledgeable opponents clearly pointed out that the bond was inadequate (so far, by about $90 million tax dollars and still counting).
So, what’s the moral of this story? Have you heard of the Trans Canadian Pipeline? Good for business, the Republican politicians say. They don’t need a big bond because their pipeline will never leak (really?). Besides, if it does leak, they will clean it up (sure they will). They won’t go bankrupt like Brohm, (we have their word on that) and leave the taxpayers holding the bag.
This bullroar is South Dakota’s very own Groundhog Day. When will the citizens stand up and tell the South Dakota Republican politicians to stop using South Dakota as a waste dump so their business supporters can make millions at the expense of South Dakota’s clean air and water. [Reed Richards, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, links mine.]


Deadwood homeboys tell the stories of the shooting range at the slag pile in Whitewood Canyon just below town.

Creating a precedent, the Sheriff's Department and Deadwood city cops shot down there until the US Environmental Protection Agency began restoring the watershed in 1981. They shot there when I moved to Deadwood in 1977. According to the late Tommy McGrath setting off a vintage Thompson submachine gun from the city arsenal was commonplace and lead from a century of gunfire pollutes the sensitive riparian zone. The official practice range is south of Lead on Yellow Creek Road.

This blogger haunted that part of the canyon just beyond the city limits and witnessed the periodic sloughing-off of the black slag pile where wild turkeys and bald eagles live above the recovering stream that carved the canyon.

Real estate sales have been active where long-held properties are being lost to out of state investors.

The Rapid City Journal removed a piece by Deadwood-area reporter, Tom Griffith. That article detailed a failed city commission candidate's attack on the mayor and council over their hesitation to approve a proposed shooting range.

Nutcase Greg Vecchi, who lost his bid for a commission seat to far better qualified candidates, wants to build a bar with an attached firing range atop the slag pile in the Northern Hills community and attacked sitting members of the governing body who oppose it.

Now, another Griffith story brings the Shirttail subdivision into the scene.
Vecchi’s Rapid City attorney, Kyle Reese, said the gun range met all city ordinances and state statues, and noted the variance had been unanimously approved by the commission after two public hearings one year ago. Concerts, shootouts, hot rods, and motorcycles were all louder than sounds emanating from the gun range, Reese said. [Rapid City Journal]
Shirttail was developed by former Deadwood City Attorney, Jon Mattson whose wife, Barb is part of the historic Rachetto family. Having done the drywall in many of the homes in the subdivision noise can be a sensitive matter in that area. I know nearly every homeowner there. These are not powerless people: one resident, Tim Davis, owns the Devils Tower Trading Post at the foot of the Tower. Danny Gray is a retired motorcycle equipment manufacturer with ties to the Hells Angels.

A comment below Griffith's article alludes to the death of Vecchi's wife and a botched investigation by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department.

In 2011, during a staged event in Hill City three tourists were shot when an actor fired a loaded handgun at them.

The parent company of the Rapid City Journal, Lee Enterprises, is known for supporting extreme right wing causes. Griffith is married to Nyla Griffith who sits on the South Dakota Democratic State Committee. Democrats brought gaming to Deadwood where over $95 million was wagered in April.

South Dakota's GOP junior senator is crowing his support for America's right to bear arms while attacking EPA for trying to clean up a century of decimation so going gently into that dark and stormy night is likely miles to go before Deadwood sleeps.

Deadwood has become home for white, male, meth-infused biker trash from somewhere else. The image above is a little message that appeared overnight on a decal attached to one of my rigs in 2012.

How people believe they can parachute into Deadwood Gulch and fix it remains a mystery. 50-year resident and optometrist, Mike Guilbert calls it the Deadwood Triangle.

You poor bastards.

Intermountain Mining and Refining is facing public scrutiny for violations at its Montana mining claim and contacting the hate group, Oath Keepers to resolve control of the surface rights to the White Hope Mine.

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