Attorney general blasts mining in national forest

Friday, November 23, 2001

PJay Nixon wants an environmental impact study done.

ST. LOUIS -- A U.S. Forest Service study that would allow lead mining in Mark Twain National Forest is drawing heat from Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon.

The Forest Service study would allow Doe Run Co. to look for lead by drilling holes in parts of Missouri's national forest.

In a brief filed with to the agency, Nixon said the study was insufficient, secretive and disingenuous.

Doe Run has a plan to drill more than 200 exploratory holes in the forest in southeast Missouri near Viburnum. In the Forest Service study issued last month, the agency said it was inclined to allow Doe Run to drill up to 232 holes, some of them 1,000 feet deep, on public land in southeast Missouri.

Environmentalists say such drilling could lead to contamination of popular springs and rivers.

Mark Twain Forest officials declined to comment, saying they had not yet received Nixon's brief, which was filed with the Forest Service as part of its public comment process. Doe Run President Jeff Zelms could not be reached for comment.

The Forest Service study pertains to Doe Run's application last summer to prospect in the Salem and Potosi-Fredericktown forest ranger districts.

Three years ago, the company withdrew a request to explore for lead in the national forest, near the Current and Jack's Fork rivers, when the Clinton Administration placed tight restrictions on the drilling. Doe Run's new request will the Bush Administration attitude toward mining on public land.

Nixon called for a study of the proposed drilling's environmental impact.

He criticized the Forest Service's plans to keep the drilling sites secret at the request of Doe Run. Disclosing the locations is the only way to assess the impact, he said.

"This is a major project that should require Doe Run to obtain an environmental impact statement before being allowed to prospect so informed technical objections can be raised and addressed," Nixon said. "When it comes to drilling for lead deposits for the Mark Twain forest, the Forest Service can't view prospecting as being in a vacuum apart from mining."

Complete information on the proposal "is vital for Missourians to provide input on this project on public land," he said.

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