County digs in on mining ban |

County digs in on mining ban


The legal battle over Summit County’s ban on cyanide heap leach mining has become a contest between David and Goliath now that the state of Colorado has joined mining interests in fighting the county.In 2003, the county commissioners banned the technique of extracting gold from low-grade ore by drenching it with cyanide. The cyanide bonds with the gold and leaches to the bottom of a pit where the liquid is drawn off for processing.The problem is that lined cyanide pits have a history of becoming environmental disasters, witness the Summitville disaster in southwestern Colorado where cyanide leaks killed the Rio Grande River.Nobody is proposing a heap leach operation in Summit County. The county commissioners took pre-emptive action to keep it that way.The Summit County battle is a symbolic one. The county commissioners took the position that despite the county’s mining past that included cyanide use, today’s Summit County makes its living off the natural beauty of the land.The Colorado Mining Association fights cyanide bans. Period.Summit’s history is one of mining booms and busts. After the placer miners got all of the “free” gold they could from the valley floors in the late 1800s, the hard rock miners moved in to burrow into the hills.On Gibson Hill north of Breckenridge, cyanide was employed to extract gold at the Jumbo Mine with Mary Ellen Gilliland’s history book, “Summit,” detailing the environmental devastation.We believe the county commissioners were right to enact a heap leach mining ban and take local control of the land. We hope the courts agree.For our report on this issue, go to

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