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The Militant Environmentalist

Contaminated water at the abandoned Summitville Mine in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

What would you do to prevent an environmental disaster such as what happened at the Summitville Mine in the early 1990s? I told the true story in Forty Demons of how a private Canadian company, seeking profit from industrial-scale gold mining, destroyed vast areas of Colorado wilderness, poisoned streams and forced the state and federal government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in a clean-up attempt.

Do we, as a society, need to tolerate this kind of irresponsible action simply because a company wants to extract an unusable mineral? Yes, gold is “valuable” but mainly as bullion. It sits inertly in a vault somewhere forever. Yet the wilderness that was brutally destroyed to extract this metal cannot be re-created. It may be rehabilitated to a degree, but it will never be completely restored. Anyone who has ever driven through the mountains of Colorado can see the scars and tailing piles left by mines that were dug more than 100 years ago. Just like today, once the “money” is gone, the mines are abandoned and nothing gets cleaned up.

When Winston saw the possibility of this same thing happening in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, not far from the Summitville disaster site, he took drastic action. To him, the wilderness was a holy land and these developments were an intolerable outrage. He was compelled to take action. Something drastic.


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