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ID Mining Investigations Go Airborne Today

July 19, 2007

Congress is set to look at updating a relic from the history of the Wild West -- the 135-year old General Mining Law that deems mining comes first, companies from other countries can take resources for free, and damage cleanup is never required.

A closer look at how mining has impacted water quality in Idaho means taking to the air. Scientist-guided flyovers are scheduled today for those who want to see the extent of decades of mining damage. The investigations come at a time when Congress is looking at updating the General Mining Law. John Robison with the Idaho Conservation League says the law has clearly not kept up with technology.

"Clean water, wildlife, and recreation are threatened by a 135-year old mining law passed before the invention of the light bulb."

Robison believes a bird's-eye view brings the link between mining and water pollution into focus.

"You really need to be in the air to not only look at the extent of the destruction, but also how it feeds into our water supply system and our river system."

The old law is getting scrutiny because of so many new proposed mining projects, including a cyanide-based gold mine plant at the Boise River headwaters. The current law doesn't require cleanup, and companies from other countries can take resources for free because no royalties are charged. A House Committee will start looking at updating the law next week.

Deborah Smith/Mandy Walker, Public News Service - ID