Toothless treaties won’t solve cross-border pollution
For those Montanans with good memories, the recently announced acquisition of the Teck Resources coal mines in British Columbia’s Elk Valley by Swiss international megacorporation Glencore might bring an unwelcome sense of deja vu.
Why? Because it’s eerily reminiscent of the 1977 acquisition of the Anaconda Company by ARCO — another international megacorporation that acquired an environmental nightmare which continues nearly 50 years later.
When ARCO bought the Anaconda Company, it’s likely its interest was in the company’s vast assets in land and minerals — not Butte’s Berkeley Pit. Assuming the environmental sins of the past would go unaddressed, as was the standard operating procedure back then, ARCO decided to simply throw the switch to shut off the massive pumps that kept the Berkeley Pit from flooding, and cease the mining operations.
But soon toxic brown water began to fill the bottom of the pit, a 1,000 feet below the surface of the surrounding land, and it hasn’t stopped since.
ARCO’s next surprise came on Dec. 11, 1980, when President Jimmy Carter signed the newly-passed Superfund Act into law. Suddenly, ARCO’s acquisition didn’t look so great since the law mandated that those who buy industrial sites are deemed the “responsible party” for cleaning up those environmental disasters. Many decades and hundreds of millions of dollars later, ARCO continues to struggle with its responsibilities and Montana continues to wait for the fulfillment of its constitutional mandate that “all lands disturbed by the taking of natural resources shall be reclaimed.”
Comes now Glencore to the enormous environmental disaster created by Teck Resources — including its significant cross-border pollution into the Kootenai River. So far, the feeble efforts by our federal government to deal with the on-going pollution have failed miserably. The mining goes on, the drainage continues, and the pollution follows the water downhill across the border into Montana.
Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have a Superfund law to hold polluters responsible for the environmental disasters they leave in the wake of their industrial profiteering — and Canadian mining companies, sad to say, are notorious for creating environmental disasters.