Gold Mines On Sacred Lands

Jun 2, 2015

The Humboldt River flows from east to west across northern Nevada and the Great Basin, from the Independence Range and Ruby Mountains to the Humboldt Sink. The Great Basin is an area of internal drainage, where no surface water flows to the ocean, and the Humboldt River basin is the largest river basin contained solely in Nevada.

152,000 acre feet of groundwater are being pumped out of the Humboldt River basin each year by six mines to keep their pits or underground mines dry. A recent report looked at the groundwater deficit created by mine dewatering in the Humboldt River basin, and its long-term effects. The report found that mine dewatering has caused a substantial drawdown of groundwater supplies in the basin. As groundwater is lowered, springs can dry up, and river flows can decrease as they replenish the deficit underground. On our flight, we saw Gold Quarry Mine and the pit lake at Lone Tree Mine. Evaporation from these pits also contributes to the dewatering.

Our flights also took us over Mt. Tenabo, a region that is sacred to the Western Shoshone and has been used for cultural and traditional purposes. Despite objections from members of the Shoshone, the industry was able to proceed in developing The Cortez Hills mine on the Mt. Tenabo. The impacts of such a mine on a sacred landscape are made grimly apparent from the air.