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GLIN==> BULLETIN: Service, Industry Partnerships Protect Migrator...

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From:     NEWS@fws.gov AT FWS
Date:     02/15/2000 03:09 PM
To:       fws-news@www.fws.gov AT FWS
Subject:  BULLETIN: Service, Industry Partnerships Protect Migrator...

BULLETIN: Service, Industry Partnerships Protect Migratory Birds From
Cyanide Mine Wastes

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Industry Partnerships Protect Migratory
Birds From Cyanide Mine Wastes

News reports of  deaths of fish and birds from cyanide
pollution in Europe, caused by a January
30 overflow from a dam at a Romanian gold mine, dramatically
highlight the danger to wildlife
from this toxic chemical.  In the United States, cyanide-laden
wastewater, a byproduct of a
common gold mining technique, once routinely killed thousands of migratory
birds each year.
Today birds and mining often co-exist without conflict, thanks
to the efforts of U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service law enforcement officers and innovative
partnerships with the gold mining

"Over the past decade, we've worked closely with the mining
industry to address the problem of
bird mortality," said Kevin R. Adams, chief of the Service's law
enforcement division.
"Education, enforcement, and teaming to find solutions are
helping to safeguard a natural
resource every bit as valuable as gold."

Cyanide heap leaching, which uses cyanide solutions to recover
gold from large piles of  low-
grade ore, set off a new U.S. "gold rush" in the late 1980s and
early 1990s by making it
to "mine" rock containing only small amounts of metal.  Heap
leach gold mines, however, collect
cyanide-laden wastewater in huge holding ponds, some of which cover as much
as 60 acres.

In the semiarid west, these ponds attract migratory birds; they
promise water, food, and rest, but
deliver instead a lethal dose of cyanide.  Every bird fatality
occurring at one of these ponds
violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a longstanding federal
law that makes it illegal to kill any
of more than 800 protected bird species.

Service law enforcement officers have investigated bird deaths
at heap leach gold mines in
Colorado, Nevada, South Dakota, and Montana.  "We've seen fines
and penalties assessed in
many cases, but more importantly, we've alerted the industry to
the problem.  Many companies
are working with us to protect birds," Adams said.

The industry has successfully identified ways to help eliminate
bird fatalities.  Smaller ponds are
now netted to keep birds out, and new techniques for applying
cyanide solutions to ore heaps
prevent toxic liquids from collecting and attracting birds.
Companies have installed cyanide
recovery systems to treat mine wastes, removing cyanide for
reuse at the mine and detoxifying
the large holding ponds, making them safe for birds.

The Victorville and Battle Mountain gold mines in Colorado are
among those that voluntarily
introduced bird protection measures at their heap leaching
operations.  Consultation with Service
law enforcement officers helped the companies understand their
conservation responsibilities and
find ways  to remove hazards to migratory birds.

"Ideally, companies elect to use the tools that are now
available to protect birds.  But when they
don't, we uphold the law and do what we can from an enforcement
perspective to keep birds
alive," Adams said.

In one recent case, for example, the Service documented the
deaths of hundreds of birds at a
Montana gold mine.  Charged with the illegal take of migratory
birds, the mine agreed to a
negotiated settlement involving payment of a $10,000 fine and
the installation of a $5.1-million
cyanide recovery system to prevent future bird mortalities.

Contact: Sandra Cleva 703-358-1949

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