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Home / Articles / Views / Danish Plan /  Think globally, mine locally
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Thursday, July 29,2010

Think globally, mine locally

By Paul Danish

Good news. At last there’s a way for Boulder to think globally and act locally to stop genocide. No more of that “put up a yard sign and feel holy” crap. Now we can do something that really makes a difference.

First some background. According to a story in last Sunday’s Camera, a new U.S. law requires companies to certify whether their products contain blood metals. Blood metals are just like blood diamonds but without the carbon. They’re metals that come from mines controlled by rebels in the Congo. The rebels use the revenue from the mines to fund private militias that behave badly. So far, bad behavior has resulted in about five million dead.

So Congress inserted a provision into the financial reform bill President Obama signed last week requiring companies using “conflict minerals” to report annually whether any of their products contain any that came from the Congo or from any of the nine surrounding countries — the last out of concern that the metals might be smuggled out of the Congo to hide their origin. Companies that can prove their products — like electronic gadgets and bling — don’t contain the tainted metals can label their products “conflict free.”

The metals in question are tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.

As economic sanctions go, there may be more here than meets the eye. That’s because people in the gadget and bling businesses may decide to avoid the brain damage required to determine if the metals they’re using come from a rebel or non-rebel mine and simply quit buying Congolese metals entirely.

But for the sanctions to work, companies will need alternate supplies of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.

That’s where we come in. When it comes to gold and tungsten, Boulder County is where it’s at.

Boulder County was the scene of one of the first gold finds in Colorado (just a stone’s throw from the Gold Hill Inn). The Cash Mine, just above Gold Hill still contains millions in gold, according to Mark Steen, its owner. Ditto for Tom Hendricks’ Cross Mine near Caribou.

As for Tungsten, between 1901 and 1915 Boulder County accounted for 80 percent of U.S. tungsten production. The town of Tungsten, which stretched for a couple of miles down Boulder Canyon, had more than 10,000 residents. (Most of the town-site is now under Barker Reservoir.) The mines eventually closed because it turned out it was cheaper to mine tungsten in China than Boulder County.

Want a conflict-free source of gold and tungsten? Reopen the mines of Boulder County.

Since stopping genocidal thugs who have already offed five million people is the object of the exercise, there isn’t a minute to lose.

Boulder County should immediately amend county zoning regulations to make gold and tungsten mining a use by right in all zoning districts. It should also amend the land use code to give gold and tungsten mining permits expedited treatment.

In order to accommodate the expected influx of miners, Barker Reservoir should be drained and the town of Tungsten resurrected — only this time use trailers instead of tents.

In order to attract big mining companies that can get big mines and mills up and running quickly, give them the same tax exempt status as churches. (Hey, if fighting genocide isn’t doing the Lord’s work, what is?) Happily, fighting genocide by resurrecting mining will create hundreds if not thousands of high-paying jobs in mines and mills and in the businesses that service them. Usually fighting genocide costs you money, which is one reason why it’s rarely done.

But what of the environment? Granted, the mining industry has more than its fair share of eco-slobs. If the mines were to re-open, there would certainly be some dust, noise and traffic associated with mining and milling, not to mention some spills and industrial accidents — there always are — but once the work is done we would hardly remember that it had taken place.

We can say that with confidence based on past experience. According to a survey done by the County Health Department a couple of years ago, there are more than 500 abandoned hard rock mines in Boulder County and more than 300 abandoned mills, not to mention hundreds of abandoned tailings piles.

The scars of Boulder County’s mining past are plainly visible from county roads, but people hardly give them a second thought. Property values keep going up anyway. Mining? Except for feeling good about doing our part to end genocide in the Congo, people will hardly notice.

So what’s there not to like about this? Who’s for stopping genocide in the Congo by restarting mining in Boulder County? Show of hands please.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Bongo, Bongo, Bongo. No one cares about the Congo.

The reason there’s so much evil in the world is that no one wants to change their lifestyle to get rid of it.

Poor Congo. Five million dead and it doesn’t even rate a yard sign.

Except one reading, “Not in my neighborhood.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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