Kaiser’s stink ’n stench dump lurks at east end of the Joshua Tree Nat’l Park
Government, Courts, Politicians & Big Bucks weigh in to dump Billions of tons of L.A.’s garbage in Joshua Tree over next 117 years.
Published Sat., Feb 25, 2012
Dear MBCA members and supporters:
Believe it or not, the Eagle Mountain Mega Dump is still not dead. There are both mining and bankruptcy court law violations occurring at the former Kaiser Steel’s iron ore mining operations that started during the Second World War. The Morongo Basin Conservation Assoc. (MBCA) announces new efforts to kill the Dump issue, “We must communicate to the Governor a demand for law enforcement, as he is hearing from [dump advocates] and other sources a different message that is damaging to our hopes to end this fight and give the land back to the Joshua Tree National Park.” said reps of the MBCA.
Donna and Larry Charpied, proactive members of the Desert Protection Council, continue to fight this battle. Just below is the text of the Charpieds’ recently emailed plea for action, which summarizes some of the concerns. At the end of this missive is a more detailed letter you can copy and send (under your own name/s) or use as a reference for your own worded letter. In either case, the email address to which your letter should be sent is Ken.Alex@GOV.CA.GOV.
The following is a copy of an email sent to Ken.Alex, edited for content
Dear Friends and Protectors of the Desert:
I have written a letter to Gov Brown regarding the illegal activities at the abandoned Kaiser Mine near the east end of the Joshua Tree National Park.
In June (2011) the Department of Mine Reclamation issued a 15-Day Notice to Kaiser, saying, among other things, they consider the Kaiser mine “abandoned.”
Our sources tell us that Kaiser’s lobbyists (California Strategies) is pressuring Gov. Brown not to violate Kaiser, and say that they are going to sell the mine to some firm located in China. Kaiser has been telling the Office of Mine Reclamation of this “sale” since July of 2011, where the Mine Reclamation facility believes Kaiser is losing credibility.
California Strategies (Kaiser’s lobbyist) is the only entity pressuring Gov. Brown that we know of. Gov. Brown suggested he has not heard from environmentalists or other opposition on the subject. It appears he is leaning toward siding with Kaiser’s agenda.
Further, officials at the L.A. Sanitation Districts say they are going to buy Kaiser’s Mine Reclamation Corporation (MRC) out of bankruptcy, and pursue construction of the Eagle Mountain dump site.
We believe that Kaiser is telling the state of California not to violate Kaiser because of a purported buyer for the mine. This is just a ploy to keep the subject lands tied up.
My understanding is that emails sent to the Governor’s “email contact” on the Governor’s website carries no weight and it takes up to 90-days for the Governor’s office to respond to letters mailed via the USPS.
For Environmental Justice,
The following text is a bit of history and current activity that may be copied, and/or modified to suit your particular sentiments, which should be sent to California Gov. Brown via USPS (snail-mail) and a copy sent via email to Ken Alex, Special Assistant at Ken.Alex@Gov.Ca.Gov
February 13, 2012 (insert here your current date)
Ref: Kaiser Ventures Inc., Eagle Mountain Mine
Dear Governor Brown,
This letter is in regard to continued concerns over Kaiser Venture’s chronic illegal mining activities at their abandoned Eagle Mountain mine, and the defeated Eagle Mountain dump, located on the south-eastern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park, in north-eastern Riverside County.
Between 1946 and 1983 Kaiser Steel Corporation operated an open pit, iron-ore mine in the vicinity of the proposed dump. In 1955, Congress granted Kaiser a patent to operate ”a camp site or mill site in connection with its mining operations”, on 461 acres of land. Congress also granted a 52 mile long right-of-way to enable Kaiser to build a rail line from Eagle Mountain, through the desert connecting with the Southern Pacific mainline at Ferrum Junction, and continue to its steel mill in Fontana. Congress placed the condition that if the camp sites/mill sites and rights-of-way were not used in connection with its mining operations for a “continuous period of seven years” the subject lands and rights-of-way revert back to public ownership. Kaiser ceased mining in 1983, when they went bankrupt. Kaiser relinquished all of its mining claims to accommodate the dump proposal.
Background: The Eagle Mountain dump would have been the repository for Los Angeles’ garbage for the next 117 years. Proposed by Kaiser Ventures and a shell corporation, Mine Reclamation Corporation, (“Kaiser/MRC”), the dump was sold to the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts shortly after gaining local, state, and federal approval. This is a plan to build the world’s largest garbage dump on 3,481 acres of federal land nestled in the arms of one of the Nation’s premier desert environmental resources, the Joshua Tree National Park.
Under this plan, part of California’s fragile desert ecosystem would become a receptacle for massive amounts of waste from Southern California’s ever increasing urban population. Joshua Tree Wilderness areas are located to the north, west, and south, forming an amphitheater around the proposed dump site, with a buffer of a mere 2500 yards to the Park’s boundary. It is in the heart of an area that “…offers the most refuge for the greatest number of species from human impacts of any area in southern California” (Ernest Quintana, former Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent). In addition, the dump site is directly across from the Eagle Mountain Elementary School. Idling trains & trucks spewing major pollutants, landfill gases, dust, airborne disease pathogens and support facilities are expected to exhaust 5,000 tons of air pollution annually affecting the entire surrounding National Park, school children and residents of surrounding well established communities.
Henry J. Kaiser was given permission to mine iron ore at Eagle Mountain which was then a part of today’s Joshua Tree National Park to provide iron needed during World War II. In 1980, a reclamation plan was approved by Riverside County pursuant to California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (“SMARA”) which had been adopted 4-years earlier. The current mine operator, Kaiser Ventures, has been allowed by Riverside County to ignore California state law, avoid reclamation, and continues to conduct illegal operations on lands once part of Joshua Tree National Park.
In 1983 Kaiser declared bankruptcy because it could no longer mine for profit. They emerged in 1987, with a plan to build the world’s largest garbage dump, nestled in the arms of our majestic Joshua Tree National Park, (“JOTR”). Local environmentalists and community residents fought this ill-conceived project for nearly 25 years, until finally the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case February 2011. On October 30, 2011 MRC also declared bankruptcy, but there are still murmurs of the dump having a “come back”. Clearly after 25 years, L.A. has survived without polluting JOTR and the desert with their garbage. In fact, a mirror image project, the Mesquite dump located in Imperial County, has gained all approvals and have no obstacles and it is still to this day not accepting L.A.’s garbage. They are not taking garbage to Imperial County because they cannot provide a full load of waste daily to the facility. So why would there even be a need for a dump at Eagle Mountain? The only need for Kaiser/MRC to try to continue with the dump is to keep the subjects lands in limbo. More on this below.
The right to open an iron mine on lands within Joshua Tree National Park was conveyed by an act of Congress with the understanding that the property would revert to government ownership upon cessation of mining iron ore. Mining of iron ceased in 1983 when the Kaiser Steel filed for bankruptcy. Kaiser Steel’s successor, Kaiser Ventures, has not only failed to complete reclamation of the former and abandoned iron mine but now claims a vested right to mine. The operator has no vested right to mine; only the ability to mine iron ore as may be conveyed by Congress. January 2009 we noticed many dump-trucks were observed going to and from the abandoned mine. We learned that Kaiser was supplying road base to the owners of the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. We made numerous calls to the owners of the racetrack and to County Counsel. We got nothing but lip service from both. Kaiser refused to talk with us. The Raceway and Kaiser violated provisions of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act by utilizing an illegal mine to obtain aggregate.
Last September 2011, we noticed Kaiser again sending aggregate to the First Solar Desert Sunlight project. We contacted First Solar and sent them pertinent information regarding the Kaiser mine considered abandoned by the Office of Mine Reclamation. First Solar immediately sought aggregate elsewhere.
The reclamation plan approved for the abandoned iron mine covers 5500 acres. Reclamation pursuant to the approved reclamation plan should have been completed shortly after mining of iron ore operations ceased in 1983.
The current mine operator is illegally mining and selling aggregate from a few acres of the waste left on the land created by the previous iron ore mining operation. The reclamation plan was approved for mining iron ore, and reclamation should have been completed 30 years ago pursuant to California state law. Riverside County has failed to enforce the California state law. Kaiser Ventures is making a mockery of California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) by circumventing reclamation while claiming a right to continue mining aggregate under the old iron ore reclamation plan.
The Office of Mine Reclamation (OMR) issued a 15-Day Notice to Riverside County to enforce SMARA. Riverside County and the Office of Mine Reclamation have both failed to enforce SMARA. Kaiser Ventures is unlawfully being allowed to circumvent reclamation and illegally claim a vested right to mine aggregate pursuant to an approved reclamation plan to mine iron ore. The mine operator has successfully avoided reclamation for 30 years. It is time for the state of California to enforce SMARA.
We do therefore charge the state of California, Riverside County, the Department of the Interior, BLM and, Kaiser with conspiracy to defraud the bankruptcy court.
The Southeastern Wilderness areas of Joshua Tree National Park are threatened by a number of projects. All of these facilities are inappropriate when surrounded by an amphitheater of natural terrain by the Joshua Tree National Park Wilderness. In 1950, 29,775 acres of land was stripped from the then “Monument” including the land currently slated for the Los Angeles dump. The abandoned mine and lands omitted from the former Monument, now a National Park, must be returned to the National Park Services (NPS) or the net results will be an irretrievable dessimation of natural resources, and death to one of our nation’s premier National Parks.
To this end, The Desert Protection Society (formerly The Citizens for the Chuckwalla Valley), have developed the “Give It Back! Campaign” to restore the 29,775 acres of land back to the Joshua Tree National Park.
As you are aware, massive solar projects both currently being constructed and proposed by energy companies in the Chuckwalla Valley – nearly 150,000 acres if all the land in the Supplemental Solar PEIS is developed. In 2012, we have to balance the scales of industrialization and conservation (a little Environmental Justice is warranted here!), and this could be achieved through transferring the 29,775 acres of lands in the Eagle Mountains to the Joshua Tree National Park.
The Eagle Mountain Mine has served the purpose intended by Congress when it conveyed to Kaiser Steel authorization to mine iron ore in Joshua Tree National Park during the SECOND WORLD WAR. Having fulfilled its purpose, it is time to make Joshua Tree National Park whole again.
We look forward to your response to our concerns.
See previous JoshuaTreeStar articles, INCLUDING MAPS & PHOTOS in reference to the “DUMP” issue:
Oct 6, 2011: Your next neighbor: A Los Angeles Garbage Dump
Oct 9, 2011: UPDATE: Senate Bill 108 signed into law.
Nov 1, 2011: Joshua Tree Nat’l Park Escapes Los Angeles Trash