Rogue River - Oregon
The Rogue River in the Pacific Northwest was one of the first in the nation to be declared a "Wild and Scenic River." Visitors travel here for the thrill of riding the rapids or the serene pleasures of fly fishing. But thanks to lax regulation under the 1872 Mining Law, part of the watershed, still being staked for mining, is home to a new federally designated Superfund toxic waste site.
Between 1990 and 1993, a Canadian company operated the Formosa copper and zinc mine south of Riddle, Oregon. The company abandoned the 100-acre property in 1994, and by 1997, the "mitigation" used to handle acid mine drainage was proving to be ineffective. As is the case with many other mines, partial reclamation occurred before the company's departure, but those efforts did not stop copper, cadmium, lead and zinc from polluting 18 miles of nearby waterways. According to the state, the contamination "severely harmed the ecosystem of these streams, including protected Coho and Steelhead salmon populations."
In 2007, Formosa was added to the federal Superfund National Priority List as one of the nation's worst hazardous waste sites—one of dozens of hardrock mines that will cost taxpayers millions in federal oversight and cleanup resources.
- Region 10, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Formosa Mine: Douglas County, Oregon," October 10, 2008.
- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, "Funding Proposals for Formosa Mine Site Cleanup," April 2004. (PDF)