In 1972 the Clean Water Act, passed by a majority in both houses of Congress, prohibited dumping waste into streams and lakes. In 1972 this seemed like a good idea to most Americans.
Thirty years later the second Bush administration tweaked the Clean Water Act, reclassifying mining waste as "fill." Mining waste can now be legally discharged into bodies of fresh, clean water. This new definition makes it possible for Coeur Alaska to dump mine tailings directly into Slate Lake. The company plans on damming the creek and discharging 3.4 million cubic yards of tailings into the lake. The once-pristine 23-acre Slate Lake will swell to 62 acres of slurry waste.
Coeur says this method will be cheaper than storing the tailings on dry land. Perhaps turning a pristine lake into a waste pit is cheaper for Coeur and its shareholders but not for Alaskans. We will be paying for cleaning up and monitoring this toxic waste site, not Coeur.
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