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Mine Compromise “Golden” for WA Environment

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 By Chris ThomasContact
April 23, 2008

Tonasket, WA – A mining company and conservation groups have reached an agreement that keeps them out of court and allows gold mining in the Okanogan Highlands of North Central Washington. The company, Crown Resources, is a subsidiary of Kinross Gold, an international mining firm based in Canada. On Washington's Buckhorn Mountain, Crown has agreed to pay for third party monitoring of the mine's environmental impact, and independent verification of the results.

David Kliegman, executive director of the Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA), says the underground mine on Buckhorn Mountain has already been under construction for about a year, despite the controversy. Although his group is pleased with the agreement, he says it wasn't easy to reach.

"I feel that we achieved what the state agencies should have done. It's their job to look out for the public interest and protect the environment, but we had to do their job."

The agreement is in lieu of a May 12th court date for the two sides. OHA was joined in the negotiations by the Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Washington Environmental Council. Kliegman says the deal provides more oversight, both for water quality and wildlife habitat in the area, than what is currently required by the Washington Department of Ecology.

"Ideally, there would not be a mine in the Highlands, but I think we got the impacts reduced as much as possible."

Local residents have a long history with this mine, Kliegman explains. It was originally slated to be an open pit, which was stopped with legal action in 2000. He adds Buckhorn Mountain is now privately owned, but it once was National Forest land. Backers of the mine say it will bring more than 100 jobs to the area.

More information about the Okanogan Highlands Alliance is available online at www.okanoganhighlands.org.

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