lest we forget: reserve mining

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  • Chemical & Engineering News 115516th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

    Editor: Albert F. Plant Managing Editor: Michael Heylin Assistant Managing Editors: David M. Kiefer, James H. Krieger, Donald J. Soisson, Fred H. Zerkel Senior Editor: Earl V. Anderson (New York) Senior Associate Editor: Howard J. Sanders Associate Editor: Ernest L. Carpenter Assistant Editors: P. Christopher Murray, Richard J. Seltzer, Karen Joy Skinner Editorial Assistant: Theresa L. Rome Editing Services: Joyce A. Richards (Head) Editorial Reference: Barbara A. Gallagher (Head), Elizabeth Pohlhaus (Indexer) Graphics and Production: Bacil Guiley (Head). Leroy Corcoran (Manager). Norman W. Favin (Art Director). John V. Sinnett (Designer). NEWS BUREAUS: New York: William F. Fall-well (Head). Chicago: Ward Worthy (Head), Joseph Haggin (Staff Writer). Houston: Bruce F. Greek (Head). Washington: Fred H. Zerkel (Head), Ling-yee C. Gibney, Janice R. Long, Rebecca L. Rawls (Assistant Editors) FOREIGN BUREAUS: London, Dermot A. O'Sullivan (Head). Tokyo: Michael K. McAbee (Head) ADVISORY BOARD: Alfred E. Brown, Mary Carter, Theodore L. Cairns, Marcia Coleman, Arthur W. Galston, Derek P. Gregory, James D. Idol Jr., Gerald D. Laubach, Richard D. Mulli-neaux, Paul F. Oreffice, Rustum Roy, Edward R. Thornton, Herbert L. Toor,*M. Kent Wilson


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    Lest we forget: Reserve Mining A year and a half ago my first editorial in this magazine concerned the language under which the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and allowed the resumption of dumping of 67,000 tons a day of taconite tailings into Lake Superior. At that time, I felt the ultimate issue of stopping pollution was clear-cut, even though the total picture was a complex one. It looks now like it's become so complex that it may never be resolvedat least not by our present judicial sys-tem.

    The measly year and a half between my editorials is actually rather inconsequential compared to the time frame of this case. It started back in the late sixties and as early as May of 1971, William D. Ruckelshaus, then administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, served 180-day notice on Reserve Mining Co. for polluting the interstate waters of Lake Superior in violation of federal-state water quality standards. It is now 1976 and little progress seems to have been made in the case. In fact, it seems to be going backwards, because now the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has removed Judge Miles Lord from jurisdiction in the case for "gross bias" and "deliberate denial of due process."

    On top of that, it seems the state of Minnesota is running into road-blocks in attempting to retain John P. Hills to work on the development of what appears to be significant new public health evidence in the case. Hills, now in private practice, was formerly with the Justice Department and was involved in the case against Reserve. He is, therefore, familiar with it. Since Hills was with the Justice Department and represented the U.S. and EPA in the case, permission is required from Justice before he can be retained by the state of Minnesota. EPA seems willing to certify Hills, but the Justice Department seems surprisingly unwilling to do the same, even though there appears to be no possibility of any conflict of interest.

    Part of the new evidence revolves around an airborne potential for cancer. Dr. Arnold Brown, pathology department head at the Mayo Clinic, testified earlier that based on new evidence there is "a real possibility of cancers occurring in the Silver Bay area" (the location of the Reserve Mining installation) because of asbestos-type fibers in the air. This adds new complexity to the case because its current status re-volves around an earlier decision to move to an on-land disposal site for the taconite tailings. If Reserve had moved on-land, what would be the next option?

    I also find it difficult to resolve the issue of why the appeals court ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to continue its court-ordered pro-gram of emergency water filtration for Duluth, if no pollution hazard exists.

    There is also the fact that the Reserve operation employs a consider-able number of people and represents a valuable investment to its owners. It should not be shut down capriciously or forced into nonviable options. It represents an interest that must be recognized and pro-tected by the court from unfair decisions.

    But I cannot see that this process should consume the better part of a decade to resolve. Complex it is, but something does seem to be wrong with our judicial and governmental systems when it takes this long and we still end up with little progress toward resolution of the is-sues before it. Maybe we need to make some decisions on this problem too!

    Albert F. Plant


    4 C&EN Jan. 19, 1976

    EditorialLest we forget: Reserve Mining