US Senator Feinstein advocates for abandoned mine cleanup as part of the economic recovery

Nevada City, CA  2/5/09   — The Sierra Fund issued a statement today thanking Senator Feinstein for her successful effort to get language funding Abandoned Mine Lands into the US Senate Appropriations bill as part of the economic stimulus package.  The Senator will be important in shepherding this funding through the conference committee and the upcoming vote on this item.

“We are glad that Senator Feinstein understands that the proposed economic stimulus money could be used in a way that can provide good paying “green” jobs in rural California, while getting some badly needed cleanup done on at least some of the 47,000 abandoned mines in the State,” stated Elizabeth Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund. “As the country faces this economic crisis and our leaders strive to craft an economic stimulus package, we believe that it is a good time to include mine cleanup as one of agenda items for several reasons. As you know, there is systemic rural poverty in California and economic stimulus is desperately needed here.”

Stimulate the Economy through Abandoned Mine Cleanup
Environmental cleanup would be a great way to put people to work in well-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced, while taking care of problems that all the experts agree need to be dealt with including both physical and environmental hazards related to legacy mines. There are many on-the-ground jobs to be created, and many people in rural California who are qualified for them as a result of skills developed in both the timber and mining industries. There are also jobs to be had in the areas of science, engineering and the improvement and creation of new technologies related to water quality.

The Sierra Fund believes that, since the US bought the gold of California at a fixed price (well below the market at that time), there is ample justification for bringing “special earmarked” money home for the Sierra Nevada.   The Sierra Fund suggested a couple of different investment strategies:

  1. The BLM and USFS Abandoned Mine efforts in California should be given a significant budget increase.  50% of these new funds should be targeted to physical hazard cleanup, and the remaining 50% for hazardous materials cleanup. 
  2. The Environment Protection Agency should be given a significant budget increase for a grant program for non-profit organizations (such as land trusts) and local government to conduct assessment and cleanup of their lands (including storm water management, acid mine drainage and mercury cleanup). These grants could be targeted to communities affected by legacy precious metals mining methods such as gold, silver, and copper.
  3. Some of the funding identified for off-road vehicle trails needs to be targeted toward characterizing these trails – many trails go through abandoned mine lands which can include physical hazards, such as mine shafts, as well as presence of toxic materials such as lead, arsenic or asbestos in the mine tailings and mine waste rock.

“We are encouraged that Senator Feinstein is such a champion in addressing what we call  ‘Mining’s Toxic Legacy,’ and we want to do whatever we can to assist her in that endeavor,” notes Ms. Martin.