Prize-Winning Investigative News Reports

Mining company has close ties with government in proposed land exchange
Winner of the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in 1998
Written by Deborah Nelson, Jim Simon, Eric Nalder, and Danny Westneat
The Seattle Times
Seattle, Washington

Nearly half of America’s West is owned collectively by citizens, but this team of reporters found out that “public” lands are often public in name only. They uncovered dozens of examples in which the public got the short end of the stick, while private developers, timber companies, and mining moguls scored profitable deals. The team also tracked how Washington, D.C., lobbyists for these interests worked hard to ensure that laws remained stacked in favor of corporations.

Excerpt from report....

SAFFORD, Ariz. — "The law says the federal government may not trade away the taxpayers' land unless the public interest is being served. So why, critics wonder, is the Bureau of Land Management on track to make two trades that will benefit the most powerful mining company in North America and permanently scar the topography on both sides of the Arizona-New Mexico border?
A possible answer: The federal officials charged with making sure the deal is beneficial to the public and to the environment are being paid, in part, by the Phelps Dodge Corp." (See entire story.)

The Mining of the West: Profit and Pollution on Public Lands
Winner of the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in 2001
Written by Robert McClure and Andrew Schneider
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle, Washington

Hard rock mining companies have spent more than a century snapping up public lands, looting them, and leaving taxpayers with the cleanup bill—all because of a bill signed by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. McClure and Schneider’s report traces mining’s history in the West to this law and shows how it is the prime culprit in the poisoning of 16,000 miles of streams and why corporations have fought long and hard in Washington, D.C., to keep it from being amended.

Excerpt from report....
Craters so huge they can be seen from space. Thousands of miles of rivers and streams polluted by acidic runoff. Miners can pay the government no more than $5 an acre for the chance to make a fortune or go bust —and stick taxpayers with millions of dollars in cleanup costs. It is the legacy of an 1872 federal law that still allows miners to take precious metals from public land for next to nothing. (See entire story.)

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