Dec 262011

For a couple years when I was a little kid we lived in the copper mining town of Miami, Arizona where the evening’s entertainment was to watch lava-like slag being dumped on the top of the ever growing mountain called a “slag heap”. Miami was a mining town in the hills north east of Phoenix. The mine was pretty much the town. It was Miami’s reason for being. Even our grade school was named for the mine—Inspiration Addition Grade School, the original mine having been The Inspiration Mine.

In this photo you can actually see the old slag heap which, from the point of view of a seven year old, was one of wonders of the world. The open pit is behind it and, as the mine has expanded, stretches all the way to Globe. An open pit mine is an ugly thing and pretty much destroys the landscape. When we see photos of open pits we recoil.

The trouble with the open pit mine on Lummi Island is you can’t see it (Bellingham actually has a much more vivid view). However, the Lummi Island Conservancy is trying to shed some light on the situation which they do in this quite remarkable, locally made video which features people you know talking about the mine just beyond the borders of Scenic Estates.

I understand that the mine offers good employment but rules are rules or at least they used to be. Given the lawless behavior of our financial institutions and the Justice Department’s reluctance to pursue remedies against that behavior it’s possible that the rules don’t count any more. Whatcom County certainly gets their panties in a knot when a homeowner tries to do something without a permit as I learned when someone on the island suggested to the county that we might have needed a permit to connect our garage to our house. Whatcom County was on top of that one.

I hope they use the same standard of diligence in pursuing what our friends and neighbors in Scenic Estates have pointed out are violations of the rules governing the operation of a quarry.


  3 Responses to “Open Pit Mining”

  1. Also lived near a huge copper mine in Nevada as a kid. Stunning to see the scale of the pit

    Of course when the owners went bankrupt in 1997 it was left to the state to clean up the mess and is now a Superfund site. Let’s not let that happen here.

  2. Thanks for passing this along, Randy. People can find out more about this important issue and some simple things they can do to help at a website the Lummi Island Conservancy put together:

    What people may not be aware of is that this lack of regulatory enforcement is critical to other issues going on in our County, such as the Cherry Point coal dock proposal. SSA has already begun a “do the development first and then worry about the permits only if you get caught” approach similar to that used (so far successfully) by the quarry operators. If we can get the enforcement process improved via the Conservancy’s appeal of the County’s environmental Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) for the quarry rezoning request, it could have important benefits for other issues, too.

    I would encourage people to visit the website, donate to support the appeal efforts, and write letters (details on the website).

  3. P.S. I would also strongly encourage people to subscribe to our email list to be updated when new actions are needed. They will not get a ton of email, only occasional messages when there are changes in the situation. Subscribe from the right sidebar of any page on the website:

    Thanks again, Randy.

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