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Mining Companies Are Our Friends


You can tell that mining companies have our interests in mind because of their deeply-held commitment to ensuring that poisonous heavy metals don’t seep into the ecosystem.

Photographs of variously mutated brown trout were relegated to an appendix of a scientific study commissioned by the J. R. Simplot Company, whose mining operations have polluted nearby creeks in southern Idaho. The trout were the offspring of local fish caught in the wild that had been spawned in the laboratory. Some had two heads; others had facial, fin and egg deformities.

Yet the company’s report concluded that it would be safe to allow selenium — a metal byproduct of mining that is toxic to fish and birds — to remain in area creeks at higher levels than are now permitted under regulatory guidelines. The company is seeking a judgment to that effect from the Environmental Protection Agency. After receiving a draft report that ran hundreds of pages, an E.P.A. review described the research as “comprehensive” and seemed open to its findings, which supported the selenium variance for Simplot’s Smoky Canyon mine.

None of this is remotely surprising. Not the fact that mining would cause deformed fish. Not that Simplot would say that this is fine for the environment. Nor that it would be Simplot who was behind this, one of the most evil corporations in the country. And not that an EPA, weakened by decades of industry pressure and lack of funding, would go along with it.

This is also evidence in our desperate need for an aggressive regulatory regime that fines the socks off mining companies (or other industries) for pollution that severely denigrates the ecosystem.

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