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Report: Science Behind Mine Permitting Process is "Broken"

December 7, 2006

Denver, CO - About 75 percent of mines end up polluting water resources to a greater degree than the predicted amounts established during their original permitting processes. That's the finding of a two-year study that compares predicted pollution levels to the actual amounts of water contamination.

Alan Septoff is research director for Earthworks, the group that sponsored the report. He claims the study is unprecedented.

"Before this point, nobody had ever bothered to check what mine predictions have been and then adjust for the future. That isn't happening."

Septoff says mining regulators should be more cautious when it comes to issuing permits, particularly at the mines considered the highest pollution risks.

"Regulators' default assumption is that a mine should be permitted. We think there should not be a mine unless regulators can conclusively demonstrate it's not going to pollute."

Septoff adds that the study findings should be of particular interest to Colorado's Western Slope residents, given the resurgence of the uranium industry in the area. The report proposes a number of recommendations, including tightening the permitting process, reviewing mines for current pollution problems, and allowing greater public access to mining-related records.

The report documents are available online, at www.mine-aid.org/predictions/.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO