Magazine article Sierra

Doe Run Takes a Hike

Magazine article Sierra

Doe Run Takes a Hike

Article excerpt

Ozark river lovers burst a polluter's lead balloon

On a warm summer evening in 1997, thugs set upon a Sierra Club activist in a parking area along the Eleven Point River in southeastern Missouri. They beat her, bound her with duct tape, and, as a calling card, stuffed a copy of the Ozark Chapter's anti-mining brochure in her mouth. Then they left her in her van, where she was rescued the next morning.

But the attack backfired. It served only to focus new attention on a potentially disastrous proposal to prospect for lead in the watershed of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a national park unit that draws 1.5 million visitors a year. Now, under pressure from top federal lawyers, the Doe Run Mining Company has called off its two-and-a-half-year campaign to drill in the ecologically fragile region.

"The Forest Service saw this as a routine administrative matter. We turned it around," says Ken Midkiff, staff director of the Ozark Chapter. "This should send a strong signal to extractive industries: some places are just too important to let profit trump protection."

Indeed, the victory marks a stunning reversal for Doe Run, among the world's largest lead producers and one of Missouri's most notorious polluters. Until recently, the company seemed a lead-pipe cinch to win the needed permits to prospect--and subsequently launch a full-scale mining operation--in a 7,900-acre section of Mark Twain National Forest. Opponents warned that even exploratory drilling would endanger the nation's first scenic riverway, a designation that predates the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. …

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