No Sierra Club award

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

Recently the developers of the proposed Kensington Gold Mine have published and distributed a brochure that touts their environmental record and cites an award they claim to have received from the Sierra Club.

For the record, neither Coeur Alaska, nor their parent company, Coeur d' Alene Mines Corp., has ever received an award from the Sierra Club for good environmental practices.

In 1991 a club representative was on a selection committee that bestowed an industry award on the company for its operation of the Rochester Mine in Nevada. Unfortunately, the company misled this representative and others on the panel. After the award was given, it was discovered that Coeur was polluting the groundwater with cyanide. The pollution has been ongoing, and Nevada cited the company last year for exceeding state water quality standards for cyanide and ordered it to clean up their mess.

The majority of Coeur's other awards are from industry trade organizations and government entities. Examples include the American Institute of Mining, the Northwest Mining Association, Chile's National Mining Society, and the Idaho Department of Lands.

Coeur's actual record of environmental practices tells a different story than its propaganda brochure. In addition to the cyanide pollution at its Rochester mine, Coeur is responsible for the contamination of the Coeur d' Alene river system with lead. This pollution is responsible for the death of trumpeter swans, who after ingesting contaminated fish lose their ability to swallow. They then slowly starve to death. The same contamination spreads downstream all the way to the beaches of Spokane, Wash.

Ironically, a Sierra Club award was bestowed in regard to this pollution. When Gov. Gary Locke of Washington and Tom Fitzsimmions, head of the Washington Department of Ecology, abrogated their authority over the cleanup of the Columbia River to a commission controlled by the state of Idaho, Coeur received the Upper Columbia River Group's "Dead Swan Award." A dubious distinction indeed, and the only kind of award Coeur d' Alene Mines is ever likely to receive from a Sierra Club entity.

Mark Rorick

Chair, Juneau Group of the Sierra Club

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