May 25, 2013

The Yanacocha gold mine.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chilean Mine Fined $16 Million

$8.5 billion project suspended

Chilean authorities have fined the world's largest gold minion company $16 million for environmental offenses and suspended operations at an $8.5 billion mining project on the border with Argentina. It is the largest fine possible under Chilean law.

Environmental activist and authorities claimed the mine, by Barrick Gold, failed to put in place a water treatment system to contain contaminated waste water and to prevent rainwater contamination from entering the Estecho river.

"We don't know how much contamination the fruit and vegetables we eat may have," local leader Yovana Paredes Paez, who lives downstream of the project told FoxNews. "They're drying up the river, our farms aren't the same. The animals are dying of hunger. Now there's no cheese or meat. It's changed completely."

Barrick's shares lost more than half of their value in the last year, due to problems at the mine. And government officials say it will not be allowed to reopen until the company puts it place a system to contain contaminated water. Together, Barrick's two mines in the region fuel a third of the provincial San Juan economy.


    Photo: Courtesy of Mark Rubenstein

Python Hunter Finds Treasure Instead

Trying to find the rightful heirs

A Florida man hunting pythons in the Everglades found something arguably much cooler than a Burmese python, a 24-karat gold jewel inlaid with rose-cut diamonds. Mark Rubenstein found the piece of jewelry back in February and has been showing it to different jewelers in an attempt to determine its origins.

Estimates from local experts, as well as the Florida Goldcoast Gem and Mineral Society have placed the date of manufacture somewhere between the 17th and 19th centuries. Stephen Walker, a New York jeweler, believes that the Celtic cross design points to more recent origins. "A lot of Celtic jewelry is made to look a lot older," he said.

Rubenstein believes that the jewel is most likely a remnant from one of two plane crashes in the area, Eastern Flight 401, which crashed in the Everglades in 1972, and a 1996 ValuJet crash that occurred just hundreds of yards away from where the jewel was found. Hundreds of people died in both crashes.

While the jewel could fetch Rubenstein upwards of $1,000, he’s determined to return the piece to its rightful heirs. “When I brought this up to my friends we all had the same reaction,” he wrote.  ‘We agreed in concert that it would be very good karma to get this piece ‘home.’” If no heir can be found, Rubenstein plans to donate the jewel to the Archdiocese of Miami.



Yellowstone National Park     Photo: Birdiegal/Shutterstock

Billionaires Back $60 Million Bison Park

3.5 million acres

A plan to assemble as much as 3.5 million acres of private and public land—about a million acres larger than Yellowstone National Park—for a free-roaming bison reservation has some Montana locals fuming, Bloomberg News reports. 

The organization behind the land-grab, Prairie Reserve has attracted $60 million from wealthy Wall Street and Silicon Valley financiers. The promise to investors: A chance to get on the ground floor of a potential national park. After assembling the land, the nonprofit hopes to populate it with up to 10,000 genetically pure bison. The group will then allow the public full use of the park.

“Think of it like an empty aquarium,” Sean Gerrity, 54, president of and the driving force behind the Prairie Reserve and a former Silicon Valley management consultant told Bloomberg News. “What we sell is the possibility, and we sell ourselves as the people capable of bringing that vision to fruition.”

But locals are upset at the suggestion that they and their forebears have done little to protect and restore the environment. “This landscape was broken in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” Linda Poole, a local to the area, told Bloomberg News. “Ranchers and the Soil Conservation Service worked and brought this prairie back. It’s not pristine; it’s restored. It doesn’t need to be saved from ranchers; it was already saved by ranchers.”