Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Return of mining in Western communities is welcomed by some, not by others

Rising prices for metals have created new interest in mining in many Western communities where mines had been abandoned. Many communities are torn over the development. While mining promises new jobs and money, their economies have moved away from mining, and some fear that the return of the industry will disrupt those new economies and damage the environment.

"Since 2004, the number of claims filed on federal land has more than doubled," writes Nicholas Riccardi of the Los Angeles Times. "During that time, gold prices have risen from $400 to nearly $900 an ounce." Other minerals have climbed even faster -- copper and molybdenum, an alloy often mined in the Rocky Mountain region, have soared 600 percent in the last four years. Although no agency tracks mine activity nationwide, experts say the uptick has been remarkable."

Many former mining communities have turned to tourism to buoy local economies. In these communities the return of mining companies could threaten the tourist industry. The environmental impact of the mining also raises concern for many of these communities. "Environmental groups and towns in northern Arizona stopped one company from digging for uranium near the Grand Canyon," adds Riccardi. "In the mining town turned tourist mecca of Crested Butte, Colo., residents fly Tibetan prayer flags to protest a company's plan to mine a mountain basin that looms over downtown."

Some communities have welcomed the return of the mining industry. In Leadville, Colo., residents have supported the reopening of the Climax mine because of the jobs and money it will provide. (Read more)

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