Appeals court to review cyanide mining ruling
SUMMIT COUNTY – A three-judge panel will review District Judge David Lass’s ruling that Summit County does not have the authority to regulate cyanide heap-leach mining – a process through which mining companies extract gold from piles of low-grade crushed ore by drenching it with the toxic solvent.The appeal, filed with the Colorado Court of Appeals Sept. 19, stems from a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Mining Association against Summit County in March 2004 that challenged newly enacted county mining regulations. Judge Lass ruled that the county could not enact a ban on mining using cyanide-leaching processes because under state law, that regulatory power rests with the Colorado Mine Land Reclamation Board.Several other counties have enacted similar bans, and the Colorado Mining Association saw potential threats to existing and future mining activities. The Summit County case could be precedent-setting for the rest of the state.The Sierra Club and the grassroots Alliance for Responsible Mining joined in the defense against the mining industry’s challenge and will continue to be party to the case, which could end up in the Colorado Supreme Court. Jeff Parsons, an attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, said the district court’s decision was an overly broad reading of state law.Summit County Attorney Jeff Huntley said the district court decision could hamper local governments in general from regulating mining activities under their traditional land-use powers. “Summit County hopes this appeal will restore the proper balance of power between the state and local governments in mining regulation that it believes state statutes and prior case law dictate,” the county attorney’s office stated in a press release.”The county appreciates the district court’s stated support for the county’s ‘well-intentioned attempts to protect its valued environmental interests,'” said County Commissioner Bob French. “However, we believe the Colorado Mining Association’s preemption arguments do not allow for the proper exercise of important land-use powers provided to county governments by law.”Bob Berwyn can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at email@example.com
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