Mining, Rivers, and Volcanoes Don’t Mix

Lewis River Meadow in Washington

Lewis River Meadow, WA | Susan Saul

Mount St. Helens is an American icon. Anyone who lived in the Northwest during the 1980 eruption may remember ash and dust covering nearly every surface imaginable. People who lived in other parts of the country at the time may remember the amazing images of an ancient volcano violently spewing massive clouds of ash and the stark landscape that remained after the mountain went back to sleep.

As we learn over and over again, nature is amazing at healing itself, and the area is now recovering with diverse forms of life mingled with scars from its explosive past. Sadly, the Green River valley is increasingly targeted for mining and exploratory drilling.

In 2008, General Moly, Inc., pursued an open pit mine in the Green River valley, just miles away from the volcano crater, and the project was rejected by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) because of overwhelming opposition on-the-ground [PDF].

Today, a Canadian company, Ascot Resources Inc., is pushing to do exploratory drilling to determine the value of heavy metals in the area, which may open the door for a new mine proposal. The project area is a mere 12 miles from the crater of Mount St. Helens and a stone’s throw from the Green River, a major tributary of the Toutle River.

The exploratory drilling project requires demolishing virtually untouched lands, using toxic chemicals, and withdrawing significant amounts of water from groundwater aquifers connected to nearby surface streams. Unfortunately, BLM recently released a flawed assessment [PDF] that found the drilling would have “no significant impact” on the surrounding environment. See a summary / fact sheet from Gifford Pinchot Task Force that shows the concerns with the BLM assessment.

The Green River was listed in our 2011 America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report. The river is remarkable and unique due to its close proximity to the blast zone of the eruption and its tremendous recreation, scenery, and fish and wildlife values. Visitors flock to the valley and surrounding area every year to fish, hike, camp, hunt, and boat in the area’s remarkable rivers and lands. In fact, the Green is proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation to preserve recreation access, safeguard the health of the river, keep the water clean, and permanently protect this historic place for research and enjoyment by current and future generations.

We simply cannot keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Now is the time to protect the Green River and the surrounding valley from current and future mining proposals!

The signatures collected will be delivered to BLM to demonstrate that exploratory drilling and mining near Mount St. Helens was not a good idea a few years ago, and it’s not a good idea today!