Keller, Washington - Mount Tolman Mining Proposal

Mount Tolman Mining Proposal

From 2004 to 2006 the town of Keller was the center of attention after the Colville Tribes' controversial decision to explore the possibility of opening up an open-pit molybdenum mine on Mt Tolman in the San Poil Valley. Anti-mining groups rallied around the opposition to the mine when it soon became evident that the mining project would be too much of a hazard to the population of Washington State given research that the mine contained hazardous materials such as uranium and toxic dust that, if exposed to, an already windy location could spread up to 200 miles, encompassing most of Washington State's economic farming country. The proposal to mine also included the use of acid leaching to retrieve the metals being mined and given the mountain's short distance to the Columbia River the result would have been disastrous. Other groups also claimed the mountain's spiritual connection to the Sanpoil Tribe (the name "Tolman" comes from the Sanpoil dialect, "Tulameen" meaning "Red Paint") because many of the tribe's legends and medicines are located on the mountain itself. The group that originally sent in the proposal for the mine mostly focused on the tribe's stagnant economy and the monetary value a molybdenum mine would produce due to the high demand of the substance, a claim that the mining opposition rebutted when the evidence showed that the price of molybdenum was unpredictable and the only consistent price range was when it fell between $0.50 to $1.50 between 1955 to 1982. When the issue was brought to vote by the Colville Tribes the proposal was turned down in three legislative districts, winning approval only in the Inchelium district.

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