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Films Highlight NV Water Issues for World Water Day

A large pit lake remains at the site of the abandoned Anaconda Copper Mine in Mason Valley, Nev. (Ian Bigley)
A large pit lake remains at the site of the abandoned Anaconda Copper Mine in Mason Valley, Nev. (Ian Bigley)
March 20, 2019

LAS VEGAS - In honor of World Water Day, some new documentaries on water pipelines and mining pollution in Nevada are making their debut.

The films are being presented free to the public on Thursday night in Las Vegas, Friday night in Reno and Saturday at the Pyramid Lake Museum in Nixon.

Ian Bigley, mining justice organlzer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, which produced the films, said one documentary, "Tainted Thirst," looks at the repercussions for local communities when mines leak highly toxic water that will have to be treated forever to make it safe.

"Once the perpetual pollution is set off, there's really no way of stopping it, so that's why we want a ban of it as a mine closure plan," he said. "If it likely is a perpetual treatment site, mine somewhere else - because beyond the pollution issue, it's inherently not an economical mine if you're going to pay to treat water for thousands of years."

Nevada currently allows new mines to open with full disclosure that they will pollute the water indefinitely. So, advocates are calling for a ban on new mines that would require open-ended remediation.

More information about the films is on the Facebook page of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Many mine pits are dug below the water table and, when abandoned, fill up to become vast lakes. Glenn Miller, a retired professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Nevada-Reno and a board member of Great Basin Resource Watch, said he'd like to see the state regulate the mine pits more closely.

"The Rain Mine has, for the last 20 years, been draining seriously contaminated water," he said. "They are treating that water. But unless they move that waste rock dump, they are going to have that problem - and they may have it even after they move it. You know, the question is, what do we leave for future generations?"

A second documentary follows the story of the Great Basin Water Protectors, a Native American-led group that organized a long-distance run last summer from Great Basin National Park to Las Vegas to protest a proposed water pipeline.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV