Gold mining company Coeur Alaska Inc. recently urged the Supreme Court to uphold the mine owner’s permit to discard waste into a nearby lake, even though the company’s lawyer acknowledged that the company’s plan would kill its marine life, AP reports.
Coeur’s lawyer, Theodore Olson, told justices that the waste is more accurately defined as “fill,” and that after ten years or more of mining, the lake could be restocked with no permanent damage to the environment.
Justice David Souter said the mining company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which granted a permit for the mine, were “defining away” the issue by calling the waste “fill.”
Justice Antonin Scalia appeared to disagree and asked, “Isn’t it arguable that the best place for really toxic stuff is at the bottom of a lake, so long as it stays there?”
The Supreme Court’s decision could set a precedent for how mining waste is managed in the nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes.