Greetings Gentle Reader,

Old Column: In California's Mojave Desert, a mine called Molycorp produces lanthanides, an essential mineral used commercially in aircraft parts, floor tiles, catalytic converters, communications and electronic products. We can get by without them only if we are willing to revert to a much more primitive lifestyle. They are critical for military use; for instance, we can't fire our Patriot missiles without them.

Molycorp is the only source of lanthanides in this country. In 1994 California Senator Diane Feinstein and Representative George Miller created a Dept. of The Interior National Preserve to protect the desert tortoise, one that carefully enclosed all of Molycorp. The tortoise is protected on their side of the Colorado River; but on our side it is not protected, because it is not endangered. The designation is a fake, as we will see. The mine pumps water across part of the Preserve's land, to an evaporative area it owns. In the summer of 1996, a pipe ruptured, spilling clean water onto BLM land a small distance short of the evaporative area. The mine reported the spill and arranged to clean up the sand made
wet by the clean water, as per federal regulations.

Miller and Feinstein, having found their opportunity, each wrote letters of outrage, accusing the mine of endangering the citizens of California and demanding that the government take action. A month later, armed federal agents wearing flack jackets, showed up at the mine gate demanding entrance, which the guard denied. They told him they were armed and were going to come onto the compound, and they did. With guns drawn, they herded employees into a conference room and held them for hours, telling them nothing. They turned away the corporation's lawyers at the gate. After several hours of being held captive, some of the employees had to go to the restroom. They were escorted to and from the restroom by an armed guard.

The employees were unarmed; it is against federal regulations to have weapons on the mine property. The agents knew the employees were no threat, so the flack jackets and drawn weapons were strictly for intimidation purposes. The agents examined all documents pertaining to the spill. That's all they were after, although the employees thought they must be conducting a drug or weapons raid, because of the uniforms and the abusive swat team behavior of the agents.

The employees were not permitted to clean up the spill. It was designated toxic waste - even though only government environmentalists could call clean water a toxic waste with a straight face. They put up warning signs and brought full toxic waste gear; the mine employees say they are just putting on a show, since they work around the byproducts of lanthanides everyday, and there is no danger.

The agencies proceeded to levy fines, though Molly Brady, on-site representative of the BLM, admitted the government had done no studies to see whether the mine's product presented any danger to humans; she also admitted they didn't think there was an "acute hazard" and that the mine had broken no laws. The fines are for noncompliance.

Remember, the agents forced the mine into non-compliance by refusing to let them clean up the sand "contaminated" by the clean water; an employee says the agents don't care whether the spill is cleaned, because they know it isn't dangerous. Then the employees found a dead tortoise on the mine's property. Regulations require that they report it, since it is on the endangered species list. They were promptly fined a million dollars, and an autopsy was ordered by the government. They found no evidence the tortoise died of anything but natural causes, but the mine was still fined. The employees dubbed it the million dollar tortoise.

The mine was required to institute a complete tortoise protection program. If anyone touches a tortoise, they are subject to a $75,000 fine and a year in jail. Vehicles can travel no more than 15 miles per hour and must keep a distance of 100 feet apart. If a tortoise gets close to one of the massive mine vehicles, the vehicle may not be moved until the tortoise leaves. There are so many tortoises it is common for one or more to tie up mine vehicles for hours each day. So much for their being endangered.

The mine has had to put up a tortoise fence at their own expense, but since tortoises burrow, they go under the fence. Every work day begins and ends with forced tortoise training. The idiotic agent who described it said they are raising the employees' awareness of the tortoise, but the employees call it "tortoise sensitivity training."

Twenty-nine federal, state and county agencies are on the compound, and the mine has to foot the bills. The BLM rep said there are so many they hamper each other's activities, not that their activities have a legitimate purpose, anyway. The sheriff of that county has the legal authority and responsibility to protect Molycorp from all state and federal agents, but the county people are among those preying on Molycorp. Maybe "to serve and protect" doesn't mean the same in California, as it does here.

The fines have mounted to $6.2 million. The mine has laid off 1/3 of their 300 workers, and they anticipate laying off 30 to 60 more, because they are broke. Production of the essential lanthanides has dropped, but a mine in China, owned and operated by the Chinese government, has eagerly made up the difference. (This is the same Chinese government that illegally put millions of dollars into the Clinton/Gore re- election campaign.) A representative of that mine announced they had plenty of lanthanides. Since the government owns the mine, he says they don't have to worry about environmental restraints. He knew all about Molycorp's private business, and smiled widely as he affirmed that they would probably have to shut down.

Molycorp is projected to be forced to close by June, because of the exorbitant fines levied by the bloodsucking agencies. One of those involved in this persecution of Molycorp has business interests in China, but there is no proof that those interests are connected with the attack on Molycorp.

Why did the environmental crazies trump up charges against a mine with an exemplary record of environmental compliance? Whatever their motivation, since lanthanides are critical to our defense, closing the only mine in America, making our military dependent on the Chinese government, is treason.

I have demanded answers from our representatives, and have told them their answers will be reported in this column. We'll see what happens next.

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