The Truth About Cyanide !
Written By Eric Chatters
To those of us who have to endure environmental mania scare stories and fear
tactics: "Cyanide kills every living thing in its path" is straight out of
the Sierra club tabloids. Second line story was about communing with Dolphins who could predict the future and spoke Chinese. In fact there have been no fatalities on record in Canada from a cyanide leak spill or burst tailings dam in 100 years. It is
hard to find a single plant incident that was even considered serious.
Cyanide is added to mill water at the rate of about 0.5 to 2 lbs per ton.
Since it is expensive, an acidulation process is used to recover what cyanide did not compound with iron or copper after process is finished. After that mills add a
permanganate process to recover 95% of what remains. The small amount of
cyanide not complexed at this time goes into a tailings pond where 30 day
retention is the rule. Within 24 hours ultraviolet light from sunshine
destroys what CN remains. When tails off water goes into a stream, one mile downstream cyanide is not detectable at all. That is why the Canadian environmental
review boards do not even hassle mines at all about cyanide. They know it is not an
issue. If it were, they would be all over it like a cheap suit, as they are
not known for their broad mindedness, where they have any ammo at all.
There have been some spectacular tailings dam failures in Spain, and the
tropics (Philippines and in Guyana) recently. Torrential rains swelled levels and
broke down dam materials placed too close to rivers. Bad design I am afraid. Not
enough experience with tropics conditions.
Despite reports in the popular press, that were highly hyped by local claims
seekers, no evidence of human injury could be found. The most likely thing
that could cause fish death is not the cyanide levels but strangely enough, the
heavy metals, deoxygenation of water from slimes, and the liming of the tailings
water, which is extreme (11 to 12 PH) to control PH and metals. We used to put so
much preciptative lime in our tailings pond in Quebec that ducks would not even
land on it. Anyone knows Alkali will kill animals before anything else will.
I am not saying that mines do not need to make progress in treating tailings
and cyanide liquorsor tailings dam safety and design. But with the accident rate
in North America so far, you could build a house next to the average tailings
dam up here and take out any sort of insurance with minimal premium. I lived within
a mile of one of the largest tailings dams in the world in Timmins and slept like a
baby. It had been there for 90 years and wasn't going anywhere. Kids play on tailings ponds in Kirkland Lake and Timmins. Of course an active tailings pond that has leach liquors in it you do not boat on. We aren't crazy. Funny I lived near
tailings ponds for 20 years and didn't see on dead duck or dead chipmunk near them.
Funny. But read the Sierra club literature and you would think you would keel
over dead from walking downwind a mile, or that evil mine managers are heaping up
bones in their kill pile for disposal in the autoclave. The price of doing
evil gold business.
I would not drink water coming from a gold tailings pond if you held a
bazooka to my head. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying normal caution is not applied. But to jibber with fear over cyanide is just not borne out in fact.
The Romanian (cyanide_ Accident is an example of the laxness of communist and
eastern European environmental standards of safety and does not impugn the
North American mine standards or practices with regard to cyanide. In Romania, they
had 100,000 tons of high concentration liquor, almost 7.8 grams per litre
God knows what they were doing with it. (171 lbs per ton!)
Mine leach liquors
averages in plant are perhaps 1/80th of that! That is 17 million pounds of
No wonder it poisoned the river. Even so the average river,
200 feet wide,
and 30 feet deep, 100 miles long, contains 187 million tons of water. That would
dilute the concentration 1872 times. That is 41 mg per ton. Standards for drinking water are 0.2 mg per ton.
So we can see that that the issue here was an unsafe level held back by and
unsafe reservoir of poisonous liquor. It's levels, and practices that were
commonly known to be dangerous in produce at any cost communist puppet states that are at issue. As at Bhopal India or Chernobyl, if the handling or practices
degrade to the negligent or dangerous level, milk becomes a hazardous product.
Every day in industry are handled the worst poisons known to man. They are a
necessary part of every industrial process. Phosgene gas, nickel carbonyl,
cyanate gas, uranium hexafluoride. We make nickel, uranium fuel, insectide,
and 1001 products of mankind. Many plastics are made from liquids and gases that
would kill you in a microsecond. the effluent in Brownsville Texas from making
circuit boards has been under review from the government for a decade. It's
deadly. Go see Erin Brockovitch. Gold mines are not the Kings of Pollution.
Day in day out we do these things safely. Hell farmers put chemicals on your rice
krispies wearing rubber monkey suits that if one tear occurs in the suite while
applying it, they are told that their life expectancy is limited.
You panicking because you just found out they use hazardous chemicals in
industry? Where you been boy?
The worst polluters on the planet are farmers. Number two are roads and
highways. A close number three are cities and their power plants. Devastation
on an unprecedented level. Shut down every mine in existence today and their
pollution battement would not even be noticed on a global scale.
The trouble with Sierra club bogeyman science about pollution is that it is
knee jerk reactionary about the sources of pollution.
The Sierra devotee, multiplied by 1,000,000 gets his energy from a high
sulphur coal plant and burns light night and day reading glossy print made from toxic ink made on sulphuric acid river-destroying paper, about some gold miner in
Hellengone Alaska that has a dirty no-good sluice box. We can see in a
picture of this cretinous miner, a fish jumping near by, and on the pan are some more. Behind him the last bald eagle flies, and a bear fishes salmon. Clearly,
nature is receding at an alarming rate.
"Damn" says the Sierra D. Duck mind police. "We gonna get that evil river
destroyer." He hops in his SUV and burns 5 gallons tearing down 50 miles of
salted tarmac to the club meeting. Tossing out bottles and candy wrapper in a
red fury he belches carbon dioxide all the way to the woods hideaway of his fellow
nature lovers. There his at Redwood beam building he harangues the members
while the gas furnace blazes and everybody read the 100 page Wall Street
Journal, made from 140 year old CDN spruce. He pauses after a beer, and
flushes the toilet into the sea nearby. "Mining is ruining the nation he
Multiply him by 1,000,000 complainers and his daily energy use, paper use,
effluent and all the cyanided metals he uses, and the miner will never catch
up. 4500 miles away the miner sighs. He wanted to pollute. His daddy told him. "
Lay waste to the country. Devastate. Let no one living thing survive. We are
He hangs his head. "But dad, I can't catch up to the Sierra club, they are
doing so much better a job at killing the planet! Look at the money they got. Why they pollute more than we do without half trying!"
"I know son, I know. We lost the race. But hey!, you can throw this beer can
in the river, And can the Sierra guy crap on a stump?"
"Why no!" says the son, brightly. "We will catch him yet." But in his heart he
knows he has lost. He staggers a bit. He sits and sobs. Scornfully the eagle
sneers at him. "I can still lay eggs. I can fly free. You can't kill me with
that sluice box, boy" he seems to say. The miner shakes his fist vainly at the proud
bird. It is the passing of an era.
Nature has won. It has passed the crown of destroyer to the ignorant. Those
who merely strove mightily to claim bragging rights of devastation have had to
The author is Eric Chatters
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