November 20, 1997 in Nation/World

Bonnie Raitt To Sing Out Against Copper, Silver Mines R&B; Performer To Stage Two Concerts In Montana To Aid Environmentalists

By The Spokesman-Review

Environmentalists are using a kinder, gentler, if not more melodic voice to speak out against mining projects that could pollute rivers in Montana and Idaho.

The voice will be that of popular rhythm and blues singer Bonnie Raitt. She agreed to perform at two benefit concerts in Montana next month. Money from ticket sales will be split among four environmental groups battling mining projects, including Asarco’s proposed Rock Creek mine.

Hundreds of residents in Idaho’s Bonner County have opposed the Rock Creek project near Noxon, Mont. Asarco wants to sink a massive copper and silver mine, one of the largest in North America, in the Cabinet Mountains. The mine, 25 miles upstream from Lake Pend Oreille, would dump wastewater into the Clark Fork River, which flows into the lake.

“Bonnie came across some information on the development of mines in Montana. She’s a well-known environmentalist and was aghast people would try to do this on such a grand scale,” said Tom Campbell, who arranged the concerts for Raitt. Campbell is executive director of the California-based Guacamole Fund and Avocado Productions. The nonprofit groups help local service organizations with benefit concerts.

Raitt researched three proposed mining projects in Montana and offered to help local groups protect the environment. “She came to us and said if it’s possible, let’s do it,” Campbell said.

The cash Raitt raises will go to the Rock Creek Alliance, Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Coalition, Island Mountain Protectors and the Montana Environmental Information Center.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us,” Rock Creek Alliance spokesman Mary Mitchell said. “It will help raise awareness of mining issue in Montana and North Idaho.”

The alliance is a small, grassroots organization with little money. It has been quarreling with Asarco for years.

The main concern about the Rock Creek mine is a plan to pump 1,700 gallons a minute of mine waste into the Clark Fork River. The company wants to use an experimental system to treat the water. The mine would also leave behind a 340-acre mound of mine waste, called tailings.

The goal is not to shut down the mine, Mitchell said, but make sure Asarco spends the money to operate the mine without polluting water supplies.

Asarco maintains any discharged waste water will be safe and meet state water quality standards. Opponents, however, note Asarco has 21 Superfund sites around the world it needs to clean up.

Another mining venture the groups oppose is the McDonald Gold Project. The Seven-Up Pete Joint Venture Co. wants to mine an 8.2 million-ounce gold deposit a quarter mile from the Blackfoot River. The river was made famous by Norman Maclean’s novella “A River Runs Through It.”

Mining the gold would put a mile-wide hole in the ground and require soaking stacks of ore with cyanide to extract the gold.

Raitt’s concerts are Dec. 12 in the Helena Civic Auditorium and Dec. 14 in Missoula at the University of Montana’s Harry Adams Field House.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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