May 20, 2009
Two environmental groups say the operator of the Benton gold mine in Southern Oregon has violated federal clean water laws, and they have filed a notice of intent to sue the company.
The notice was filed this week by the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in Eugene. It says mine operators Dutch Gold Resources Inc. of Atlanta and subsidiary Dutch Mining LLC of Merlin violated the Clean Water Act by failing to monitor and report discharges and illegally dumping mining waste.
The 480-acre Benton mine is in the Whisky Creek drainage of the lower Rogue River. Whisky Creek flows into the Rogue about three miles downstream from the river's confluence with Grave Creek.
"Companies are accountable for their impacts to the Rogue River," said Lesley Adams of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. "It is unacceptable for the mining industry to degrade public waters and salmon habitat through their illegal operations."
She said public files reveal the firms showed disregard for environmental laws.
Officials from both firms did not immediately return calls for comment.
The Benton mine originally opened in 1893 and closed in the 1940s. Dutch Mining reopened it under an exploration permit in 1994.
Since 1994, Adams said, operations have posed significant threats to water quality and to the fishery in the wild and scenic Rogue River, including increased acid mine drainage and water pollution from mining wastes.
Last year, both the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ordered mine operations stopped, citing violations of mining regulations.
The closure remains effective until the owners either present the BLM with a notice of operations or a plan of operations, said Jim Whittington, spokesman for the BLM's Medford District.
Most of the mine is on privately owned land, but a portion, including the road to the mine entrance, is on the Glendale Resource Area of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/