GREG MARTIN - Staff Writer
Scientists to discuss mining impacts
It's one thing to claim mining excavations are causing adverse impacts.
It's another to prove it.
A group of scientists, environmental consultants and environmental
activists will soon share with the public what they know of those
impacts, and what they don't know, at a public conference set for March
15 at Best Western in Punta Gorda.
The goal is inform people about the potential impacts just as the state
legislative session gets under way, so they can participate more
effectively as citizen-lobbyists, said Dr. Nora Demers, a Florida Gulf
Coast University professor who also works as a secretary for the
Responsible Growth Management Coalition.
The RGMC is one of several organizations co-sponsoring the event, dubbed
the first-ever International Conference on Mining Impacts to the Human
and Natural Environments.
Other sponsors include the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program and
the Center for Remote Sensing and Mapping Science at the University of
Georgia in Atlanta.
Topics to be discussed include impacts to water resources, the economy
and human health.
“The purpose is outreach,” Demers said. “The only agenda I have is for
public participation. This will provide the questions people need to be
asking about health and welfare and resource protection, things that
right now I don't see our government protecting.”
A medical doctor from Tampa General Medical School will report about the
effect that mining operations can have on pulmonary health.
A professor from the University of Miami will present an analysis of the
economic impacts of mining.
Several scientists and professionals will discuss various technologies
that could be used to determine impacts to the underground movement of
water. The technologies include remote sensing, dye tracer analysis and
Jim Flock, a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, will present a
study on what he calls “seismic profiling.” The technology involves
recording sound waves to map fractures, sinkholes, springs and caverns
in the limestone layer that lies beneath much of Florida.
Seismic profiling is one tool that could be used to “provide invaluable
information ... about onsite and offsite impacts,” Flock wrote, in a
summary of his study.
Often, mining interests argue there's no scientific basis for claims
that proposed mines will cause impacts, Demers acknowledged.
“We sure can't prove it if we're not looking for it and monitoring for
it and reporting on it,” she pointed out.
Several environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Manasota-88 and
the Gulf Restoration Network plan to tell of their efforts to protect
natural resources from mining in several different regions.
Those speaking will include residents of the Withlacoochee River area
north of Tampa. They will discuss what they learned about the impacts of
the so-called Big Deep Dig, a large pit in that watershed.
Demers said the idea for the conference came as a result of an e-mail
conversation she had with a scientist who had recently authored a study
on excavation impacts.
Conference organizers were also considering the fact that controversies
over mining have reared up lately. Recently, Lee County adopted a
one-year moratorium on mining, and Charlotte County adopted a stricter
And a state task force, established to assure that big road projects
will continue to have a source of gravel in the future, recently
submitted a final report.
The report suggests, as one option, that such agencies as the state's
Department of Environmental Protection take over the role of evaluating
environmental impacts from counties.
Punta Gorda was chosen for the location of the conference because it's
in the middle of the area where the outreach is targeted, Demers said.
The event runs from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. For more information, go to
You can e-mail Greg Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.