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Where Everything Grows

A romanticized past


The Gold King Reckoning” hit home for me and once again renewed my quandary over the nostalgic interest in all things mining-related in the American West (HCN, 5/2/16). I once participated in the Hardrock Hundred Mile Run, which offered me a unique tour of the vestigial remnants of Colorado’s San Juan mining industry, and I now live on the Arkansas River in Salida, another unique front-row seat from which I can view the acid wastes originating upstream in Leadville.

Sure, the industry once represented a source of much-needed income, and by extension, was a means of securing both food and shelter for the nearby communities, but at what ultimate cost? The General Mining Law of 1872 and its subsequent amendments are so demonstrably outdated and ineffective that I shudder to think of what truly underlies their continued existence and use.

And of course, I remain keenly aware of our local “Smelter Town” Superfund site, which is just a stained stone’s throw away from my current home. So, what do I think about the 365-foot-tall brick smokestack that still stands ominously at Smelter Town, now revered and listed in 1976 on the National Register of Historic Places? Just tear it down! It is simply evidence of a short-sighted, horrible past that we may never, ever, be able to adequately recover from or fix.


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