Bohemia Health Threats Overstated

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By W. Don Reeder For The Register-Guard

We are an organization of independent miners who are concerned that The Register-Guard's recent series, "Mining's Toxic Legacy," misrepresents our activities, our interests and mining in general.

By focusing only on a few worst-case scenarios such as the Formosa Mine and neglecting the hundreds of abandoned mines that are nonissues, the series coaxes readers to generalize that these worst-case scenarios are representative.

That is simply not true. The state has more than 250 mercury mines and more than 450 gold mines, most of which are abandoned. Many have been abandoned for decades, and even though they have not been subjected to reclamation efforts, require an experienced eye just to be located.

Some mines are simply incapable of producing significant pollution because of their geology. Since acidic mine waste is produced by the oxidation of sulfur-bearing ores, mines that involve other ore types don't produce acid.

For example, Oregon has more than 280 abandoned chromium mines. Since chromium ore is composed of oxide minerals, these mines have no acid runoff. Placer gold mines don't generate acid runoff because the gold already has been freed naturally from its sulfur-bearing ore.

Of the mines that tap sulfur-bearing ore (most of those 450 gold mines), the great majority of them are not significant sources of acid runoff.

Contrary to the June 29 article - the headline of which is a monument to hyperbole: "Bohemia: A mountain of pollution" - the Champion Mine is located in a mountain of volcanic rock. That mountain is not Bohemia Mountain, and the mine is not a significant source of pollution.

But don't take our word for it. The engineering evaluation and cost analysis report commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service and indirectly referred to in the article contains a "streamlined human health and ecological risk assessment" in Appendix B. It states, "The only likely current and future receptors identified for the site are hikers, campers and hunters."

Page 13 summarizes the search for 54 "chemicals of interest." It says, "The quantitative risk assessment determined that no unacceptable noncancer health risks are anticipated" and "arsenic and cadmium were the only (carcinogens) identified at the site. A quantitative risk assessment determined that concentrations of arsenic in surface water did not result in unacceptable excess cancer risk.

`Risks from ingestion of soil and sediment and dermal contact with soil exceeded the Department of Environmental Quality's regulatory standard . …