Yes I know that the Gogebic Taconite mine never materialized. But the end goal of neutering environmental regulations remains intact and at some point when taconite prices are again on the rise, someone will propose opening a mine at that site.

But beyond the deflowering (pun intended) of the beautiful watershed and potential to pollute Lake Superior…we may have decades to continue to enjoy their largesse when they are gone…something along these lines:

It will take many years and many millions of dollars simply to manage and not even remove the toxic wastewater from an abandoned mine that unleashed a 100-mile-long torrent of heavy metals into Western rivers and has likely reached Lake Powell, experts said Thursday.

Plugging Colorado’s Gold King Mine could simply lead to an eventual explosion of poisonous water elsewhere, so the safest solution, they say, would be to install a treatment plant that would indefinitely clean the water from Gold King and three other nearby mines. It would cost millions of dollars, and do nothing to contain the thousands of other toxic streams that are a permanent legacy of mining across the nation.

The Gold King delay illustrates a problem dwarfing the 3 million-gallon waste plume accidentally released by contractors working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: There are about 500,000 abandoned mines nationwide, and only a fraction have been dealt with, despite decades of effort.

EPA has estimated the cost of cleaning up abandoned mines nationwide, not including coal mines, at between $20 billion and $54 billion.

They’ve since become legacies of the industry’s boom-bust cycles, in which companies fold up operations when metals prices fall, leaving behind sources of toxic wastewater that chronically leave rivers barren and taint drinking water supplies.

Of the abandoned mines in the U.S., more than 48,000 had been inventoried through the BLM’s Abandoned Mine Lands program, which began after new federal laws focused on environmental protection in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

But only about one in five of the inventoried mines is being cleaned up or requires no more action. More than 38,000 await further analysis or work, according to the bureau.

Sounds like we have an opportunity for a jobs initiative here…$54 billion worth! Even if we get Americans to spend the money do you think we can get Americans to do the work?

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