Monday, January 12, 2009
The Supreme Court hears a case Monday that could set a precedent for how mining waste is disposed of in streams, rivers, lakes and even wetlands.
The justices are hearing arguments on whether an Alaska gold mine north of Juneau can dump metal waste -- or tailings -- into a nearby lake -- not a pond specifically created for these substances.
The Kensington mine received a permit in 2005 from the Army Corps of Engineers to dump the waste. But environmentalists sued, saying the tailings would kill fish.
The mine's owner says tailings are inert and that almost half would be recycled back into mine operations while the remainder would be placed in a small unproductive lake.
A federal appeals court blocked the permit under the Clean Water Act of 1972. This case could test the limits of that federal law.