Although the Eagle Mountain mega-dump plan is legally dead, legal wrangling continues over usage of the Eagle Mountain area, most recently with regard to a hydropower project that was granted a federal license. Reporter Dan Stork says another front has been opened by activists…
Monday, the Desert Protection Society issued a press release charging Riverside County with failing to enforce state law governing reclamation of defunct mines. The press release says that Kaiser Steel mined Eagle Mountain for iron ore from World War II to 1983, at which time implementation of a reclamation plan should have begun, followed by integration of the area into the then Joshua Tree National Monument. The release goes on to say that Riverside County failed to enforce the reclamation plan, and Kaiser Ventures–a successor company to the bankrupt Kaiser Steel–claims a vested right to mine in the area. The area is being mined currently for aggregate. The DPS says that a 2012 report by geologists from the Department of Conservation (DOC) cited eight violations by Kaiser Ventures of the reclamation plan, but a report signed by a DOC supervisor later that year reduced the number of violations to a single, relatively minor one. The Desert Protection Society release says that the supervisor in question himself was a mine operator at the time. Although an opinion by the Fair Political Practices Commission later absolved him of a conflict of interest, the Society wants the FPPC to reconsider that decision, and considers the report signed by the supervisor to be a falsified document. The Society also says that a Department of Conservation who complained about the conflict of interest has been subject to retaliation and investigation by the DOC. Activist Donna Charpied, who is a Director of the Desert Protection Society, told us that its next step will be to ask for a grand jury investigation in Riverside County of the County’s behavior in this matter. She also hopes to raise public awareness of the issue before the next meeting of the Mining and Geology Board on August 14.

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