The Article is not intended to serve as an advocacy polemic for the cyanide-using mining industry. Rather, its objective is two-fold: (1) It seeks to expose the scientific and environmental reality of cyanide use in mining operations; and (2) It will try to draw from the case of mining-and-cyanide use some larger lessons about regulatory behavior, and the downside of over-regulation when confronting the phenomenon of risk amplification. Part II considers why cyanide is so ubiquitous in hard rock mining operations in America and in other countries, and why there is no effective substitute for it as a substance to leach out gold, copper, and other valuable hard rock minerals. Part III is an examination of the scientific and ecological reality of cyanide spills in nature. Part III reveals how, as a matter of science and chemistry, cyanide is usually, and counter-intuitively, non-toxic to environmental goods and wildlife. Part IV summarizes the true extent of the mining accidents and incidents that have released cyanide into the natural environment, and the very “human” reasons for these spills. Part IV also points out why, despite the fact that cyanide spills are preventable, and despite cyanide’s undeserved reputation as a killer-of-environmental goods, there have been flat bans and harsh regulatory limitations on its use.
Recommended CitationJan G. Laitos, Cyanide, Mining, and the Environment, 30 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 869 (2013)
Available at: http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pelr/vol30/iss3/2