Opinion: Questa: A mine's toxic legacy--an idea for new jobs

Arnold E. Cordova, Questa
Posted 4/18/19

One damp morn, the airwaves began to vibrate. News became aware that the Questa village site was the mouth of an enormously rich sleeping volcano. New Mexico geologists had already carefully examined …

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Opinion: Questa: A mine's toxic legacy--an idea for new jobs

Posted

One damp morn, the airwaves began to vibrate. News became aware that the Questa village site was the mouth of an enormously rich sleeping volcano. New Mexico geologists had already carefully examined the somniferous locality and found it contained wealth deposits of various minerals and elements such as gold, silver and molybdenum. Eventually, after many decades of attacking the virgin cordillera, the currently closed mining corporation received a Superfund order to clean up the toxic crisis that it had created. Serious damage was experienced by the ecological community, its form and its survival. Río Colorado had become infected with deadly poisonous toxic pollutants, dooming the life of the organic brook. Undeniable evidence supported the passage of the Superfund site law.

The dream of wealth had become a nightmare. The water of the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground ocean, has been to Northern New Mexico what the buffalo contributed to the Plains Indians of North America - survival. It is said that water is one of the foundations of life and of an economy. Obviously the corporation wishes to extend its cleanup and depend upon future generations to do it right. That plan is not acceptable. Chevron must be held accountable. Covering the tailing site with two feet of top soil is an obsolete and a Band-Aid solution. The tailings must be returned to their original home, the open pit or the mine tunnels.

On another day, a friendly neighbor visited a nearby recycler and retired molybdenum miner friend, who praised a huge pile of sturdy 50 gallon metal containers, which had been removed from the mine's storage field. Gravely, the miner pointed to the lettering on the cans, which read "arsenic," the poisonous element and mercury used to extract molybdenum. Uranium, radium-radioactive elements, are also an intrinsic essential part of the deadly toxic, poisonous tailings, including water soluble lead, aluminium and cadmium, and hold a strong potential for causing wide-spread tailing/water contamination.

Most of the money earned by Molycorp left the job-barren northern parkland. Ironically, the humble village on the volcano has been nickel-and-dimed. Fearful villagers buy water in plastic bottles, afraid to drink the village water. Visit the unique, historical little village and observe the dead, silent toxic lake and tailings situated above it. How can a village community with limited resources do battle with such gall and insensitivity? Is this humble article a message for relief from discourtesy, oppression and genocide? Definitely.

To help my village, I have a dream of planting and growing a green open air market park to resemble Eco Park in Taos. It will be located in the vicinity of beautiful Questa and serve as an economic development project to create jobs for our citizens. To succeed, the community will need to participate to make it come true. It will require much work and money. We will need a team to start. Interested supporters, please write me a note or call.

Arnold E. Cordova is a fifth-generation Questeño. Contact him at (575) 586-1588.

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