Mon, Mar

Gold Mine Exploration Begins on Western Shoshone Lands

Western Shoshone predicted that once the Bureau of Land Management seized and removed the horses of Carrie and Mary Dann, that new gold mining explorations would begin, poisoning their waterways and destroying their sacred sites.

Jan. 26--ELKO, Nev. -- Western Shoshone predicted that once the Bureau of Land Management seized and removed the horses of Carrie and Mary Dann, that new gold mining explorations would begin, poisoning their waterways and destroying their sacred sites.

The process was accelerated shortly after President Bush's re-election.

The Western Shoshone Defense Project and the Te-Moak Tribe joined environmentalists and filed a petition challenging federal approval for Cortez Gold Mines' exploration in Horse Canyon, which includes sacred land, in northern Nevada.

The Western Shoshone Defense Project said the region is also the same area where the Dann sisters were grazing horses, until BLM seized them last year.

Carrie Dann said she could not understand the BLM's approval of the exploration project, since the Western Shoshone have spent so many years trying to educate people and stop the destruction.

"And yet, it is this federal administration who claims 'moral values,' and these companies who claim to be socially responsible that have shown nothing but disrespect for the ways of the Shoshone people," Dann said.

The region represents the third largest gold mining area in the world. Expanded gold mines results in drilling core samples and consuming whole mountains. Gold mining pollutes and diverts massive quantities of water. It leaves behind leaking cyanide ponds.

Modern techniques leave 20 tons of waste for every simple gold ring.

The petition says the Bureau of Land Management approved the expanded Cortez Gold Mines' plans for exploration in the Horse Canyon area, despite Western Shoshone protests and recognition that the area is sacred.

Te-Moak Tribal Council member Jody Abe said the tribe is outraged. Abe said the tribes have been left out of the decision-making process that affects Indian people and their environment.

Cortez Gold Mines is a joint venture of Placer Dome Inc. and Kennecott Minerals. Placer Dome is 60 percent owner and operator, with Kennecott owning the remaining 40 percent.

The BLM is allowing Cortez to disturb 200 more acres at Cortez Hills, Pediment and Horse Canyon for exploration and for condemnation drilling for proposed waste dumps and a heap leach pad for a new mine.

Meanwhile, Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. began construction on the controversial Phoenix gold mine at Battle Mountain, a site where copper and gold have been mined since the 1860s. Phoenix will produce 21 million pounds of copper per year and as much as 420,000 ounces of gold per year.

Citing its damage to Western Shoshone sacred lands, Newmont was protested by American Indians in Denver during the Transform Columbus Day protest.

Rich Perry, head of North American operations for Newmont, said copper was discovered on the Phoenix site in the 1860s. The first process plant was built on site in 1876.

"Phoenix represents rebirth," Perry said.

However, to the Western Shoshone and Great Basin Mine Watch, gold mining represents everything but rebirth.

Gold mining acid rock drainage pollutes waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency agreed with criticisms that Newmont dramatically underestimated the potential costs of environmental risks at the mine over tens of thousands of years.

The BLM was warned that the project would dry up streams, pollute ground and surface water, cause substantial toxicological threats to wildlife and most likely end up on the EPA's Superfund list.

Newmont officials acknowledge that sulfuric acid could leak far into the future but insist state-of-the-art reclamation practices will minimize risks at the mine.

Hugh Stevens, chairman of the Te-Moak Nation wrote an open letter to President Bush, the U.S. Congress and the American people concerning the ongoing injustices.

"Today, the Western Shoshone Nation is in a struggle for survival against the powerful forces within the U.S. Congress that are attempting to steal our ancestral homeland.

"While Western Shoshone warriors are fighting in Iraq to defend and protect the United States, certain members of Congress are attempting to illegally confiscate our homeland, which the U.S. Government promised to preserve and protect for the Western Shoshone Nation by the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty.

"-- Western Shoshone are being attacked by a Congressional juggernaut that has been fueled by false and misleading information that is intent upon stealing our sacred lands from under our feet."

Stevens said while the direct attacks of the 1800s were deadly and killed many Shoshones, modern-day Congressional attacks upon the Western Shoshone are far more destructive, since, if they are successful, will destroy the entire Shoshone nation.

Stevens said Western Shoshone maintain title and ownership of 24 million acres of Western Shoshone lands, guaranteed by the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty.

"These lands have never been ceded or sold by the Western Shoshone and remain the homeland of the Western Shoshone Nation."

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© 2005, Indian Country Today, Oneida, N.Y. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.