Idle travel has me in Elko, Nevada after two days in Reno. Reno is ringed with hills that you spy vaguely through the look-alike office buildings sprouting in impossible green lawns and standard nursery flower beds. In Elko the mountains dominate the landscape and thankfully there are no artificial lawn and flower beds. This is the honest center of farming, ranching, mining, and gamblers fleeing Utah.
In both places the talk in the offices is of the mine closure regulations and costs and today the news that law suites are filed to force mines to pay for the use of public lands for mills, waste rock dumps, and tailings impoundments.
The Nevada consultants are churning out the mine closure reports. They are generating mountains of cost estimates for mine closure. Ninety percent of the reports and cost estimates are for mines not yet opened or only just opened. Seems the mines have to get bonds for the closure costs. That is not easy to do now that tax-payer funded AIG is inactive. Lloyds of London does it but does not like the USA mining industry. There are a few folk who left AIG who are trying to start up a business providing closure bonds to Nevada mines. Seems as though the cost will all land back with the taxpayer in the long run.
As for closure costing, it seems to me the design criteria are inadequate: a few inches of soil, some water diversion ditches, a stand of green grass and nursery flowers. Even better put the site under active care in the hope the metal price will rise. If a mine is going to use public land for the waste rock dump and the tailings impoundment, then surely they should pay to get the land that will forever be changed and that will forever need human intervention to maintain an unnatural geomorphic form.
As one consultant told me: when I grow old, I will buy an RV and go around on behalf of mines and report on their so-called closed sites and tell them what to do to keep them “closed.” Sort of like what the DOE in Grand Junction does for the closed uranium mill tailings piles.
Let us face it: there is no such thing as walk-away mine closure. Someday, somewhere, somehow the US taxpayer is going to have to fund an organization with perpetual existence to monitor and maintain closed mine sites. As I said we are already doing that for uranium mill tailings impoundments. It is only a matter of time before we do it for other metals.
Thus I will into the clear air and sharp skies of Elko and a land of vista to beautiful mountains untainted by artificial grass and flowers and tall casinos topped with neon.