A View of the Big Bend area from the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains Harrison Saunders n theory, water quality also falls under / the agency’s purview, but in the case of proposed mining for humate, the agency says it has no jurisdiction. The agency insists that if the humate operations are to be regulated at all, they fall squarely under the jurisdiction of the Railroad Commission. The R.R.C. has legal jurisdiction over the extraction of Texas coal, oil, and uranium: that’s why the definition of humate is crucial. If humate is not coal, the mining operations essentially would be unregulated \(limited only by the terms of the mineral leases signed by the mining compaGeronimo Properties, Inc. \(also operating under the name DinoSoil and the holder of the plurality of the humate leases in the Control.” Under its terms, Geronimo agrees to “make a good faith effort” to minimize pollution, and to abide by all relevant T.N.R.C.C. regulations, and Geronimo is indemnified from any pre-existing pollution problems. The lease makes no mention of the Railroad Commissions A useful gauge of Geronimo Properties’ “good faith” was provided by its initial discussion with the Big Bend Citizens’ Alliance. According to Paredes, the company “assured us that they have all the required permits [to begin mining].” In fact, the company has neither obtained nor applied for a single permit from a single agency. “Their lawyer says they don’t need any permits,” says Paredes, “so they have all the required permits.” Geronimo Properties declined to comment. According to the March newsletter of the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club, Geronimo Properties will be sub-contracting actual mining out to another company, Gilbert Construction. The newsletter also reports that when Gilbert Construction did some work on Highway 118, the company ran rock crushers twenty-four hours a day, using flood lights at night. If the mining companies are unreliable as protectors of the environment, so are the landowners. Most of the proposed mining sites fall within the boundaries of Terlingua Ranch, a 200,000-acre resort ranch, much of which is held by individual landowners. For years, Terlingua Ranch was a getaway spot, but a growing number of landowners are building houses on their plots. The ranch is managed by the Property Owners’ Association of Terlingua Ranch Incorporated, an elected group of landowners. Like many of his fellow landowners, Alan Baker, Association treasurer, expressed reservations about the mining: “I don’t know enough about the mining to have an opinion except that, as a landowner, I don’t want strip mining on Terlingua Ranch because I don’t want to have to live with the results.” Baker is quick to add, however, that he does not believe there’s anything he can do to stop the mining. The Citizens’ Alliance has hoped that the Owners’ Association would present an obstacle to the mining efforts by refusing mining trucks access to Terlingua Ranch roads. Such a measure would serve not only to delay or derail mining efforts, it would also protect the unpaved roads themselves. In the quarterly newsletter for Ranch property owners, Betty Alex recited the dangers humate mining poses to all property owners: road damage, noise, and dust generated by mining; potential danger from breathing humate dust; water table depletion; erosion, water pollution, and THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19 SEPTEMBER 25, 1998
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