Cyanide Mining Fight More Than “Usual” Bickering

UPDATE: Polis keeps the pressure on with a blast mail to his substantial email constituent list (follows).

As we noted a couple of days ago, and the Denver Post’s Jessica Fender writes for Politics West:

The recent flap over Joan Fitz-Gerald’s 2004 advocacy for using cyanide to mine gold – a process environmentalists object to – did more than launch the typical attacks from the two 2nd CD candidates who love to bicker. You know who they are.

It left third candidate and long-time conservationist Will Shafroth, who has so far stayed quiet on the attack front, joining opponent Jared Polis in openly criticizing Fitz-Gerald.

“It is unfortunate in a district like the 2nd Congressional District where past representatives have been such stalwarts for the environment that a candidate … would be a supporter of cyanide heap leach mining,” Shafroth said in a statement. “I have not and will not support this type of mining – it poisons our environment.”

So why suddenly start weighing in on the brawl between Fitz-Gerald and Polis?

“She supports the use of cyanide heap mining and Will does not,” said Shafroth’s spokeswoman Lynea Hansen. “This is a very important distinction.”

Incidently, nether does Polis.

Dear Friend,

In the closing days of this primary election a startling policy difference has emerged between Jared Polis and Joan Fitz-Gerald on the use of cyanide in mining. Cyanide leach mines consistently contaminate water resources with cyanide placing human, wildlife and environmental health at great risk.

With the Summitville mine disaster in 1992, Colorado learned of the extreme dangers of cyanide leach mining the hard way in what has been called the “costliest mining disaster in US history”:

“Cyanide, heavy metals, and acid mine drainage from the Summitville mine killed all aquatic life within 17 miles of the Alamosa River.” – SOURCE: “Banning cyanide use in mining,” State Environmental Resource Center,…

The policy difference between Jared Polis and Joan Fitz-Gerald is very simple.

Jared Polis:

“When it comes to protecting our environment, there is right and there is wrong. I strongly believe the use of cyanide is wrong and I will fight for a law to ban its use.”

Joan Fitz-Gerald:

“… [Fitz-Gerald] supports whatever method of extraction is safest, including cyanide mining.”

– SOURCE: Denver Post, August 6, 2008

Cyanide mining is not safe. In fact, there is not an environmentalist alive who thinks using cyanide is safe.

Joan Fitz-Gerald has gone to great lengths to try to convince voters she is a leader on environmental issues. However, she has taken thousands of dollars in special interest PAC money from the mining industry and, even worse, this week it was revealed she did them a “special favor” in 2004 when she tried to stop Summit County from banning the use of cyanide.

Cyanide leach mining is not safe.

Jared Polis will ban the use of cyanide in mining. Joan Fitz-Gerald did the bidding of the mining industry and supports the use of cyanide.

Grab your nearest environmentalist (we like to call them citizens) and make sure voters understand what is at stake on Election Day!


Robert Becker

Campaign Manager, Polis for Congress

33 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Which Wil is Up says:

     Good for Will but he is not going to break 15%. This is an issue Will  understands. Cyanide is bad. OK Will you got that one right. Have you seen his commercial?  I can’t figure out if he is acting like a magician and making a new bicycle appear or saying that tantrums should be rewarded?  

    The other dumb guy running for Congress is Wil Armstrong.  One too many shots of Tequila have taken their toll on the heir apparent to his Daddy’s dynasty.  

  2. ChrisCooper says:

    Polis gets accused of being soft on vouchers and Fitz is demonstrably soft on mining.  (As well, she has taken PAC money from mining interests and, indirectly, from one of the nuclear industry’s major lobbyists).

    As the replacement for Mark Udall, who has been an important voice on the House Natural Resources Committee (the committee charged with overseeing commercial leases of mineral resources on public lands), the mining connections have to be far more disconcerting.    In fact, just last month, the Committee’s Democratic majority had to exercise rarely-used emergency powers to block the mining of uranium on lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.  And pressure to mine uranium on Colorado’s public lands will only intensify as the nuclear industry seeks massive expansions.

    It’s a shame that organized labor in Colorado has chosen to attack Polis on vouchers while ignoring Fitz-Gerald’s far more disturbing ties to the mining industry.  

  3. Disinterested17 says:

    Don’t roll with pigs, I mean Polis and Fitz-Gerald, in the mud.  You’ll just get dirty, and they happen to enjoy it…

    • Danny the Red (hair) says:

      as long as it is about policy, honest and not personal.

      This is a policy difference, there is no misstatement and it is not personal.

      Shafroth is fine here

  4. shoofly says:

    This issue is now in it’s third day of media cycle. I assume JP will drop an ad about this starting tomorrow around 3p (too late for JFG to respond on TV until Monday PM), and JFG is silent. I honestly don’t understand what she is thinking.

    • indipol says:

      so she’s thinking that ignoring it is the best (only) defense.  Mary Alice tried the “it was not tied to any specific project” defense and that went over like a led zeppelin.  What else can Joan say?  Give the long-winded “context” explanation that Repub 36 tried?  That’ll go over well on the nightly snooze….

      (And oh, by the way, Jared hates cyanide mining with passion, fervor and dedication and as our Rep he would stop at nothing to halt this destructive practice and he calls on Joan to make the same pledge.)  

      • BoulderDem says:

        1. Defend it on stronger grounds than “there were no mines planned at the time”. Perhaps tie in jobs somehow? Or just say we need gold mining and tough, this is the best technology we’ve got (which isn’t true and sounds awful).

        2. Say she’s changed her mind since then (too late for that now).

        3. Change the subject. Hey, how about that Polis ad that claims the 527 attacks were launched by Joan! Look over there!!!

        I dunno. She’s kind of cornered. She wasn’t getting a lot of enviro votes anyway, but now she’s getting none.

        • DavidThi808 says:

          This has become the main topic as we enter the last week. Not good for her. I think Jared had it regardless but this all but guarantees it.

        • No-one’s answered about better alternatives.

          • BoulderDem says:

            that do not use cyanide. Here’s an excellent resource from a trustworthy group:


            • I’m going to take it with a grain of salt since one of their claims is essentially that we wouldn’t need to mine gold at all if the world gave up its gold reserves…

              However, it does list two processes at the end.  One, the Haber Gold Process, appears to be in early production – post-dating Joan’s comments.  The other, a biocatalytic, appears to be even newer.  Both are proprietary and there is little outside of company promotional material (and press releases picked up by news media) to recommend them.

              If we’re to ban cyanide in mining, these processes must gain wider acceptance.

          • indipol says:

            but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only technology.  The others are more expensive b/c their extraction percentages are lower.  But allowing cyanide leaching on those grounds is like granting CA and FL strawberry growers exceptions to the methyl bromide ban because the pesticide alternatives were more expensive.  At a certain point you make a policy decision that the tradeoff of more expensive gold/strawberries for enhanced environmental protection is worth it.  Or you don’t.  Either way, it’s a policy choice to be made.

  5. ChrisCooper says:

    …that it took this long for a “startling” policy difference to emerge.  

    It only takes about 2 hours of online research to run into Fitz’s ties to the mining industry.  And there is a plethora of policy differences that can be exploited:

    1) support for cyanide leaching.

    2) support from a company with documented human rights abuses in Indonesia.

    3) clandestine ties to the uranium mining and the nuclear industry.

    4) failure to co-sponsor or support mining restrictions in the state senate until their passage was all but assured.

    Follow the money to find the motivation.  This stuff should have been issue #1 well before all the early voting started.

    • Chipeta says:

      Suddenly (as of yesterday) you are a big contributor to Pols and have blogged yourself to death in the last 24 hours as if you are the newly annoited czar and “know it all” energy expert.

      Take a breath, or a hike, which ever comes sooner.  

      • ChrisCooper says:

        I’m sorry…I didn’t realize that this was your little clique and it was only open to the “cool kids”.

        Where was I?  Researching for an article on the life-cycle carbon costs of nuclear energy and researching future water consumption of thermoelectric generation for a book.  Yesterday I was stuck at home with a sinus infection and had the time to contribute because, I dunno, I was under the mistaken impression that this was a public forum for discussion among folks interested in Colorado politics.  

        Instead apparently it’s just a den of partisan vipers stuck in a echo chamber of their own devise and bent on launching cynical and petty insults at each other in a feeble attempt to make themselves feel important and newcomers unwelcome.

        My bad.

    • indipol says:

      I already blasted you for claiming those “clandestine” ties to nuclear.

      I don’t favor Joan in any way and hope she loses (along with Jared), but your “clandestine” ties charge without proof are lame.  If you have the proof, post it.  She’s been avowedly anti-nuclear in this campaign so giving us some actual material to show a contradiction there would be great.  Saying that because some nuclear lobbyist (among many others) gave to a PAC and that PAC gave to Joan (among many others) proves nothing.

      • ChrisCooper says:

        Proof??  Of the tie to nuclear?

        You apparently are already aware of it.  But I will repeat what you already know (and I already posted) anyway:

        JFG has taken PAC money from Freeport-McMoran, the world’s largest publicly traded copper and gold mining company, with operations in North America and Indonesia.  In 2003, the company admitted paying nearly $20 million to the Indonesian military to keep native landowners away from lands the company mines under contracts with Indonesia’s Islamic government.  

        Since the 2000 election cycle, Freeport-McMoran’s political action committee has received nearly $10,000 in contributions from J. Bennett Johnson, the former Louisiana Senator most known for authoring the bill designating Yucca Mountain the nation’s nuclear waste repository.  Johnson left the Senate in 1997 to launch the Washington, DC-based lobby shop Johnson & Associates (now Steptoe & Johnson), whose biggest clients include Constellation Energy, which operates five nuclear reactors in the Unites States and Battelle, the international science and tech. firm with nuclear technology interests scattered around the globe.

        Am I charging that there is a quid pro quo?  No.  Nor will you ever find any post from me making that charge.

        But one has to wonder what one of the nuclear industry’s top lobbyist expects for the thousands of dollars he has funneled through Freeport-McMoran’s political action committee to Fitz-Gerald’s campaign.  What is the connection between Steptoe & Johnson and Freeport-McMoran (& Joan Fitz-Gerald).

        This is why it’s unseemly to take PAC money (money that exists soley for the purpose of influencing elected officials).  It isn’t MY job to explain the connection.  It’s Joan’s.

        • DavidThi808 says:

          It’s 3 degress of seperation.  

          • ChrisCooper says:

            And knew that the Renaissance of your technology depends on access to the immense store of uranium under Colorado (Uranium deposits are widely spaced throughout the Front Range, including in Larimer, Gilpin, Clear Creek and Boulder), how would YOU contribute?  

            This is the problem with taking PAC money.  No amount of disclosure will bring to light all the real connections between elected officials and special interests.  There are a zillion ways to hide those connections through “3 degrees of separation”.

        • Danny the Red (hair) says:

          to ask JFG to explain her views on uranium mining.

          She has publicly opposed nuclear power (the merits of which is a seperate issue), but she is recieving money from a gold and uranium mining company.  Why?

          While not dispositive, it begs more questions.

        • indipol says:

          I’d love nothing more than to be able to widely publicize that Joan is taking uranium money, but you’re not proving that.  

          Let’s spin it another way.  A different candidate takes $$ from a PAC of a well-known and well-respected national enviro group.  That same enviro group gets 0.01% of its annual donations from a well-known international soft drink bottler.  That bottler gets trashed sometimes for 3rd-world labor practices (or make it clean water issues, I don’t care).  So the link between our candidate and bad 3rd-world labor practices (or clean water problems) is right there, people!!  Don’t you see it??


          • DavidThi808 says:

            We all post on ColoradoPols. OMG – we’re all McCain supporters.

          • ChrisCooper says:

            Joan receives PAC money directly from Freeport-McMoran’s PAC.  So at least she knows that this is money from a company with questionable human rights practices, directly supporting the Indonesian military in the suppression of local landowners.  

            So question #1 – what does a company with this kind of agenda (gold before human rights) want with Joan?

            Also, so where does this PAC get its money.  Well, a lot comes from contributions from folks with an economic interest in the company, company execs, etc.  But almost $10,000 comes from the nuclear industry’s top lobbyist and the guy who proposed that Yucca Mountain be the nation’s nuclear repository.

            So question #2 – What is J. Bennett Johnson’s interest in Freeport-McMoran?  Why is he providing money leftover from his Senate campaign committee to a gold mining company?

            (Now, if you know that gold mines are also uranium mines, the link becomes pretty obvious…especially if you also know that the renaissance of the nuclear industry hinges on it getting access to domestic sources of uranium and you also know that the 3rd largest store of domestic uranium lies underneath the Front Range.)

            It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to understand the very real motivations for the nuclear industry to support the candidate who is apparently in the pocket of the state’s mining interests.

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