Golden Sunlight Mine (
by Steve Timmer
Oct 26, 2013, 9:00 AM

Cyanide: it’s not just for murder anymore!

How about that heap leaching, eh?

There’s a faculty member at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (more on him later), who thinks that a mining process called “heap leaching” (I’m not making this up) is a wonderful way to get mined metals out of ore. It’s really good for gold, but in Chile, that wonderful petri dish for environmental protection, it was found to be great for low grade copper, too, especially if you use cyanide as a leaching agent.

Cyanide? Isn’t that the principal ingredient in Zyklon B? Why yes, yes it is!

[N.B. Between last evening, Friday, when I saw this video, and this morning, Saturday, the video now says that it “times out,” at least for me. I don’t know if that means the video has been disabled, or if there is merely a temporary glitch. The conference where the interview of Prof. Dreisinger was made took place in September of this year. Later: it seems to be back now; it still times out once in a while.]

But not to worry, says Prof. David Dreisinger, it’s “a beautiful reagent” (listen at about 2:25), and it even “occurs in nature,” too. People just need “to be educated about it.” I don’t know about you, kids, but I feel a lot better now.

Of course, there are a lot of things “in nature” that can kill you really dead.

The video is from an article entitled Heap leaching: beyond the headlines. That cracks me up every time I say it. And because it is so much fun to say, I’ll report that he was speaking at the Heap Leach Solutions Conference in Vancouver.

But what, exactly is heap leaching? Well, you take a heap (that’s a term of art here) of ore, and put it on the “leach pad;” you pour stuff on it, and you see what runs out of the bottom of the heap. Again, I am not kidding.

But not everybody is as sanguine about the use of heap leaching as Prof Dave. The State of Montana, for example. In a citizen initiative in 1998, all the environmental wackos in Montana decided to phase out cyanide heap leach mining. I can’t imagine why.

Naturally, the mining industry has been whining and trying to get the initiative repealed ever since.

Well, what does this have to do with us, says Minnesota? Well, Minnesota, you might be interested to know that the purring professor wears another hat: member of the PolyMet Mining board of directors. You can see why he’s not on the board of the Sierra Club! Prof Dave is in Vancouver now, where PolyMet is, but apparently he originally hails from that pesthole Sudbury or environs.

But Prof Dave is emblematic of the mentality we import right along with PolyMet Mining, if a mine is permitted.

See if you can say it three times without laughing: heap leach, heaping leeches, Uriah Heep*.


* Uriah Heep: obsequious now, but predatory later

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