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Democratic Central Committee
Curry County Democratic Central Committee
Opposing Nickel Mining in Curry County
We the Curry County Democratic Central Committee (of Oregon) are strongly opposed to the nickel mining operation proposed by the Red Flat Nickel Corporation in the Red Flat area of Curry County based on its almost certain negative impact on the citizens of Curry County, on area plant and animal life, and on other business sectors that are vital to the long-term economic viability of Curry County.
We call on the governing bodies of Curry County, including County Government and the cities of Brookings, Gold Beach, and Port Orford, to take all necessary and appropriate action to prevent any exploratory or production mining operations in the Red Flat area by the Red Flat Nickel Corporation or any other entity.
We call on our State and Federal representatives to take all necessary and appropriate actions to prevent commercial mining in the Red Flat area of Curry County, including working with relevant state and federal agencies and, if necessary, introduction of appropriate legislation.
We strongly encourage private organizations with expertise in environmental law to take all necessary actions to prevent any exploratory or production mining operations in the Red Flat area by the Red Flat Nickel Corporation or any other entity.
Ratified by The Curry County Democratic Central Committee on April 19, 2014.
Chairperson, Curry County Democratic Central Committee
In December 2013 the Curry County public became aware of an ongoing effort on the part of Red Flat Nickel Corporation, a foreign-based mining company, to gain permission to do exploratory mining for nickel ore in the Red Flat area of the Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forest. This includes the North Fork of the Pistol River and Hunter Creek watersheds. While the information presented here focuses on Red Flat, the same foreign corporation intends to explore for nickel at another location in Curry County named the Cleopatra site in the remote eastern area of the Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forest.
Red Flat Nickel Corporation has applied for permission from the U.S. Forest Service Gold Beach District, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, to drill 35 test holes to obtain core samples to test for minerals. The Gold Beach District’s Preliminary Decision Memo states that permission to proceed with test drilling will be granted when specific “additional design and mitigation measures” are incorporated into Red Flat Nickel’s final plan of operations. If sufficient nickel ore is found it is anticipated that Red Flat Nickel will seek approval to proceed with full-scale surface mining.
Red Flat Nickel is a subsidiary of St Peter Port Capital Ltd. The St Peter Port Capital Ltd latest (2013) “interim report” contains the following statement about its Red Flat Nickel Corp holding:
Red Flat Nickel
We hold an 80 per cent equity stake and a secured loan in Red Flat Nickel, following a restructuring of the company’s balance sheet and management. The company has licenses over two nickel laterite deposits in Oregon.
We reported in our final results in July that, since taking control, as well as the substantial nickel laterite deposits, some further surface exploration work had showed the presence of potentially economically attractive percentages of scandium in the nickel bearing rock. This should considerably enhance the commercial potential of the nickel deposits. The team have made good progress with the US Forestry Department approval for deeper drilling in Spring 2014. This is necessary to produce a Preliminary Economic Assessment and to enable the required competent persons’ report for an AIM flotation.
Many Curry County citizens are rightfully concerned that any mining activity in critical watersheds and environmentally sensitive areas of Curry County would not be in the long-term interest of the people of Curry County.
Industrial mining is inherently destructive to the environment, and the resulting environmental damage is difficult or impossible to fully mitigate. This motivates mining operations to take shortcuts and engage in business practices that preserve profits but often leave a trail of environmental destruction in their wake. How far this destruction extends from the immediate vicinity of a mine depends on the characteristics of the regional environment. In dry regions toxic pollutants can often be mostly confined to a small area around the mining operation. In areas like Curry County with high rainfall and high runoff, negative environmental effects can spread long distances from the source.
Toxic Pollution From Metal Mining
The metal mining industry is recognized as the top toxic polluter in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) report identified metal mining as responsible for 41 percent of all environmental toxins in the United States. But this understates the extent of the problem. The metal mining industry successfully sued to exclude most toxins in waste rock from the TRI. As a result, at least one-third of the toxins released into the environment from metal mining go unreported.
The proposed mining area is in the headwaters area of the free flowing Hunter Creek and Pistol River. They are part of one of the most biologically intact wild areas remaining in the American West. These tributaries are among the few in the nation that remain in nearly pristine condition.
Much of the ecological resources that are endemic and unique to this area would certainly be impacted by test drilling and even more by surface mining. Toxic runoff from mining operations will enter the watershed to be carried downstream and eventually released into the ocean. Hunter Creek and Pistol River support wild chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout as well as resident rainbow, eulachonand lamprey, and can be considered native fish strongholds and gene banks. The area is also home for the Mardon skipper, a rare butterfly that has a limited range and has evolved to rely on this unique soil type and vegetation that would be severely impacted by more road activity and mining.
The proposed mining area is adjacent to designated Bureau of Land Management Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), the Red Flat Botanical Area, Flycatcher Springs, and many other unnamed spring-fed wetlands. Mining operations in this area would likely affect area water flow and distribution with negative impact on the local plant and animal habitat. Of special concern is the possibility that drilling and mining activity could puncture the clay beds of the fens that provide the unique habitat for plants such as the Darlingtonia, commonly known as the cobra lily.
Mining disrupts the soil makeup of the lands in many unforeseeable ways. The laterite soils of the area do not recover from disturbance and must be left intact to preserve the fragile ecosystem. Rock and soil displaced by mining would transform the topography and near-surface geology of the area in ways that could not be restored to the original state. The resulting change in surface water absorption and runoff would significantly alter the local ecology.
Access In Sensitive Areas
This mining plan allows for road clearing and minor roadwork to allow access to the mining area. This would make it easier to gain access to off-limit areas, adding to the environmental impact already imposed by illegal off road use. Local residents are also concerned about limited or loss of access to the area during mining activities.
Oregon’s recreation economy totals more than $5.8 billion per year. The Red Flat area, Hunter Creek and Pistol River play an important part in the outdoor recreation economy of Curry County. The area is suitable for multiple forms of recreational use, including birding, wildlife and wild flower viewing, hiking and cycling the many trails. Mining would severely compromise any scenic value of the area. The BLM ACECs would be compromised by the mining as well. Who would want to come visit a protected botanical area and see a surface mine?
The hard rock mining industry has a well-deserved reputation for questionable business practices and lack of environmental stewardship. The economics of mineral extraction force mining operations to focus on maximizing production and minimizing cost above all other concerns. A common practice is for a mining company to work a mine until it’s “played out” and then declare bankruptcy, leaving an aesthetic and environmental mess behind.
Red Flat Nickel Corporation has all of the earmarks of one of those companies.
Red Flat Nickel Corp is a privately-held corporation chartered in Panama. It is listed as having three employees with an annual revenue of $150,000 – $200,000 per year. It has an office address in Portland, OR, but attempts by the press to contact the company have been unsuccessful.
The British company St Peter Port Capital Ltd has an 80 percent controlling interest in Red Flat Nickel Corp. St Peter Port Capital Ltd is located on the island of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of France. It has 19 other mining holdings and 20 holdings in other sectors. Eleven other corporations are listed as principle shareholders in St Peter Port Capital Ltd with at least a 3 percent interest. All of the directors of St Peter Port Capital Ltd are directors or partners in multiple other companies. One director is listed as having “interests” in 151 other companies.
From an economic and business perspective Red Flat Nickel Corp is well positioned take full advantage of antiquated U.S. mining laws to make a quick profit at the expense of the citizens of Curry County while receiving effective immunity from legal action by virtue of its foreign-based ownership.
LOCAL ECONOMIC IMPACT
Curry County is in a state of transition. In past decades the County economy was driven by unsustainable levels of fishing and logging. Contraction in these industries in the past two decades has placed the County in economic distress. Efforts to reestablish a viable economic base are just beginning.
The Southern Oregon Coast fishery is now operating at a sustainable level and will operate at the present level into the foreseeable future. The timber harvest has stabilized at about one-third of its historic high level following a sharp decline beginning around 1990. Efforts by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representative Peter DeFazio to open more federal lands to sustainable logging will likely result in increased timber harvest, but the harvest will not return to the historic, unsustainable level. Modern automated harvesting and mill automation will limit employment to levels far below the historic average.
Tourism has become a growth sector in the Curry County economy. People are attracted to Curry County for its beautiful surroundings and diverse recreational and sporting opportunities. Any activity that makes Curry County a less attractive tourist destination will have a long-term negative impact on the County economy.
Looking to the future Curry County needs to find a sustainable economic model. It is tempting to exploit local mineral resources like nickel ore as a quick and easy way to boost the economy. But any potential development must be evaluated in the context of its long-term impact.
Mining by its very nature is not sustainable. When economically viable mineral deposits are exhausted mines close with resulting loss of jobs and a degraded ecological and aesthetic environment. This would inevitably have a negative effect on most other economic sectors and would make Curry County a less attractive location for its citizens and most other business sectors.
No information has been made available about the number of people the Red Flat Nickel mining operation would employ, over what period they would be employed, and what the pay level might be.
Board of Commissioners
The County Board of Commissioners (BOC) took a proactive position against the proposed mining project. A letter signed by Commission Chair David Brock Smith to Tina C. Lanier, District Ranger of the Gold Beach Ranger District, documents the Commission’s unequivocal opposition against the proposed mining operation. The letter reads in part:
The Curry County Board of Commissioners agrees that the proposed project to be conducted by the Red Flat Nickel Corporation will cause serious negative externalities of the project location at the headwaters of the free flowing Hunter Creek and Pistol River watersheds. If allowed to be developed: the BOC also recognizes there will be serious negative impacts to the surrounding area, restriction of access to popular recreational areas, degradation of the rare and unique botanical resources, as well as the health risks to the residents and wildlife. The BOC places higher values on its citizens health and safety, the many recreational uses of the Red Flat area as well as the highly prized Hunter Creek and Pistol River fisheries for wild Chinook and Coho Salmon, Steelhead, Cutthroat and resident trout than on the foreign owned Red Flat Mining Corporation interests. Furthermore, the BOC feels this proposed project is not in line with a number of other Curry County policies outlined within the Federal Coordination Policy.
This letter is the Curry County BOC formal opposition of any permit issued to the Red Flat Nickel Corporation. A copy of Article One, Division Fourteen and Exhibit A, Curry County Federal Coordination Policy is included for your reference.
Gold Beach City Council
The proposed mining development was a subject of discussion at the February 12, 2014 Gold Beach City Council meeting. Of specific issue was the possibility that Red Flat Mining might want to buy water from the city of Gold Beach to support its mining operation. The Curry County Reporter in its February 17 issue indicated that the consensus of the Council was to oppose the project:
“There are a lot of citizens who are against this,” said [Mayor Karl] Popoff. “So essentially we are going along with our citizens … . This is not something, as far as I can see, to add any real benefit to our community… They may get the water from Brookings, but we won’t sell it to them.”
“I don’t think we have near enough information,” said [Council member Tammy] Kaufman. “We don’t know if it is a feasible place to mine, we can assume it will have some environmental impact.”
“I think we have enough information,” said Popoff.
“The only thing we can do is to make a proposal to restrict our water,” said [Council member Larry] Brennan. “From my point of view, I would like to restrict it.”
The council subsequently created a new policy that does not allow the city to sell water to Red Flat Nickel Corp.
RESOURCES AND READINGS
Nickel Strip Mines Proposed for Curry County
Oregon Coast Alliance
RF-38 Test Drilling
U.S. Forest Service
Mining firm interested in national forest nickel
Hunter Creek, Oregon
Native Fish Society
Hunter Creek mining proposed
Curry Coastal Pilot
GBCC: Nickel mining discussed at council February 12, 2014
Curry County Reporter
The metal mining industry is the nation’s top toxic polluter.
Pollution Equipment News
Report Reveals Metal Mining Industry Is Nation’s Top Toxic Polluter
2012 TRI National Analysis
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Legal Loopholes Allow Industry to Hide Hazardous Chemical Release
RED FLAT NICKEL CORP.
Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp
Red Flat Nickel Corp in Portland, Oregon
St Peter Port Capital Ltd
Sustainable Seafood on the Southern Oregon Coast
Oregon – Mining
The Active Outdoor Recreation Economy, Active Outdoor Recreation Fuels Economic Growth In Oregon
Outdoor Industry Association
Annual Timber Harvest Reports
Oregon Department of Forestry