The Legacy of the Bunker Hill Mine

I wish I could take pity on you dear reader, and tell you that this corporate crime was confined to the Silver Valley, but it is not. The Coeur d'Alene River feeds into the Coeur d'Alene Lake, which is full of toxic sediment and from there it goes down the Spokane River which feeds into the Columbia River. The toxic sediment collects behind dams and washes all the way down the Columbia River to the ocean. Adding to this problem has been clear cut logging, road building and commercial development. All this adds to runoff from rain and melting snow which picks up the toxins from the ground and washes it into the rivers. This also increases the amount of flooding in the area. In years of great flooding toxic sediment is dispersed throughout the flooded area.

The federal government and the state of Idaho, take the attitude that over a long time that once the toxins are washed away, that new clean sediments will cover over the toxic sediment in the waterways and flood grounds and be sealed in.

Who will pay for the cleanup, and what happened to the corporate criminals? Keeping the crime a secret allowed Gulf to sell Bunker Hill and take their assets to New Zealand where they cannot be touched. They then filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. This gets them out of paying for the cleanup or other law suits by poisoned people, and leaves Bunker Hill workers without their pensions and medical benefits. The new owners were able to profit from the cover-up of the truth and the slow action by the EPA, and ran the mine for a while; they then closed it down and sold off contaminated equipment and rail ties. They then diversified their assets to the point that there was no company left.

This story of the Silver Valley comes to an end where the history began, with the Coeur d'Alene Indian Nation. They are suing eight mining companies still left in the area, the Union Pacific Railroad (because of the uncovered railcars that went through their land and the toxic material that blew off them) and the state of Idaho to force a cleanup of the waterways, flood grounds and along the rail line. The Coeur d'Alene Nation's land is downstream from this dreadful mess. This is the first such suit by a Native Nation.

A mine owners association has recently "fixed" the blame for the closing of Bunker Hill on "environmental extremists, the Coeur d'Alene Indians, and disgruntled miners who exaggerated the harmful effects of (toxic) materials from mining." And to show just how sick some people can get, there are those who want to create a Bunker Hill National Park to honor Bunker Hill's great history.

The mine owners, the politicians, the U.S. government, the state government of Idaho and the pie-card leaders of the United Steel Workers were all partners in the crime that took place and the long cover-up of their misdeeds. If a poor person steals a loaf of bread to eat, that "criminal" is hunted down as a threat to humankind. If a rich person causes the deaths of workers, poisons children, fouls Mother Earth, they are allowed to live their lives in the luxury gained by their crimes. When I speak of class struggle, it is not some ideological philosophy, but rather a struggle for survival and the hope that someday we can make the worst criminals in history pay for their crimes against us.

The lessons to be learned from the legacy of Bunker Hill are many, a book could be written on that alone. But the heart of the matter is very simple--we, the workers, the oppressed and exploited people, cannot find any justice or ethical values from any bosses, politicians, judges or so-called labor leaders. We can only find such things among ourselves. And we, organized as a great power, are the only ones who can put an end to this historical human tragedy called capitalism. Our power should be delegated to no one, for we can trust no one but ourselves.

After researching this writing, I pulled out my old Steel Workers card and looked at it. It seemed not a thing of pride and honor, but a thing of shame -- a card of union betrayal. I have always been a card carrying union man. And I attend to continue to be one until my body is placed into the ground of Mother Earth. But I also know how the Steel Workers got control of Bunker Hill, and how the pie cards sought to cover-up a great crime. I then burned my card in honor of the Coeur d'Alene Nation, in honor of the long miner's struggle, in honor of the workers who died because of corporate greed, in honor of the 91 miners who died in the Sunshine Mine, in honor of the poisoned children, and in honor of Mother Earth.

Page 7 of 7