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Mine Spill Price Tag Rises, Raises New Concern About Colorado's Abandoned Mines

The price tag attached to the toxic wastewater spill from Colorado’s Gold King mine is rising, as economic disruption spreads through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The federal government has taken responsibility for the spill, saying an EPA-supervised crew inadvertently released the waste, laced with heavy metals, into the Animas River, during a clean up at the mine. Current law requires mining companies to post a bond to cover eventual clean ups, but since this mine was abandoned in the early 1920’s — prior to the law — there’s no mining company money available for Gold King, which sits at 11,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains. The spill raises the questions not only of how many other abandoned mines dot the region (23,000 in Colorado alone), but also what they contain and what risks they pose.

Bonnie Gestring is Northwest program director at Earthworks, a not-for-profit working with communities to minimize impacts of mineral and energy development — much of its work focusing on abandoned mines. She joins Here & Now’s Robin Young from Montana to discuss the issues surrounding the Gold King spill, and the risks posed by other similar mines.


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