Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mine Firms Retreat on Forest Plan They Withdraw Request to Drill, for Now

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mine Firms Retreat on Forest Plan They Withdraw Request to Drill, for Now

Article excerpt

Two lead mining companies have withdrawn their request to drill in state forests, avoiding a vote that likely would have rejected the proposal.

The commissioners of the state Department of Conservation were to vote on the request today at their regular meeting in Stockton. The commissioners were believed to be split 2-2 on the issue, a rejection vote.

The issue, however, will not be on the agenda because the two mining companies, Doe Run Co. and Asarco, anticipated the vote and withdrew their requests Thursday. Walter Nowotny, Doe Run vice president, said the company may renew its request later. "The science and the facts got lost in the heat of the debate and the politics of the situation," Nowotny said. "We felt it would be more prudent to withdraw for right now." Darrell Himmesoete, general manager of Asarco, said "the present situation, as we see it, appears to represent one of political and/or irrational volatility concerning the issue. We hope and trust that we can see fit to renew this request at a later date in a time further removed from potential political debate." The mining companies, however, have lost their most vocal supporter on the commission. Chairman John Powell is to retire after today's meeting; a replacement will be named by Gov. Mel Carnahan. Commissioner Ron Stites, who opposed drilling, said he believed any future request for mineral exploration on state lands would be doomed. "They can bring it back, but I don't see that happening, realistically," Stites said. "I think that's pretty much it." The companies had asked to drill exploratory holes in the watersheds of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, two popular floating streams in the Ozarks. Opponents said drilling could be a prelude to mining, which they sa id should be out of the question in the area. Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club said the lead companies "had the votes counted the same way we did and realized they were going to lose." "Since this vote would end this argument for some time to come, it is clearly to their advantage to forestall any binding decision," Midkiff added. …

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