More tests, show more mercury in Utah sport fish

Idaho fish have a similar problem. The culprit is likely the same — Nevada gold mines-

Below is an editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune on the rather shocking new findings about levels of mercury in Utah fish. In some cases the fish have so much mercury it isn’t safe to eat a single fish.

There are many sources of mercury, but for these two states one source stands out — the numerous gold pit mines that have popped up  in Nevada — many of which put out far more of toxic metal (once it is converted to methymercury) than an entire handful of coal-fired power plants.

I think it is time for a lawsuit demanding damages.

Mercury testing yields advisories. Salt Lake Tribune Editorial





  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The contamination of fish with Mercury over much of Utah and Idaho is a terrible tragedy to anglers and all those who care about the birds and animals that eat the fish.

    This should really be a national story, and things are not getting better. More and more of these gold pits are opening up due to the high price of gold.

  2. Anthony Avatar

    Well that is depressing, I am even a little worried about eating trout from high mountain lakes here in Idaho. I wish they would test all the lakes in the state. If these gold mining companies were held responsible for cleaning up contaminated waters today, then all mining activies would cease tommorrow. The cost to the environment is obviously greater than the ecomonic benifits these mining companies provide.

  3. kt Avatar

    The first step (along with litigation) is shining a spotlight on ALL the environmental damage that the Newmont, Barrick and other mines are doing to the land, water and wildlife of the Region. Something that Harry Reid and the now-disgraced John Ensign can’t keep covering up. Some of the worst is that several of these mines and mine speculators hold vast public lands grazing permits. So they are destroying sage-grouse habitat and laying to waters over a vast region.

    PART of the reason I believe there has been no lawsuit to date is that some of the enviros working in the mercury problem are too concerned about upsetting Reid – the Go-To man for the foreign mining entities that are laying waste to Nevada and poisoning the entire region.

  4. mikarooni Avatar

    Anthony, I’ve always found that it isn’t the size of the economic benefit that counts; it’s whose pocket the benefit goes into. As for the need for gold, aside from the hidden amount being hoarded by speculators and providing no benefit other than as a vehicle for gambling, over 85% of the gold in use is used in jewelry, mostly just gilding shabby lilies. Less than 15% is used in industry, mostly in high-end electronics. The mining jobs are short-term and generally don’t even pay enough to cover the long-term health and medical liabilities, much less the environmental damage. That’s a pretty worthless economic benefit, except for the very few pockets at the top into which they flow.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You are absolutely right. Of all the metals, there is less need for more gold because of the factors you listed.

    All this gold mining is just a negative side effect of economic adversity (lack of faith in currency).

  6. Big Mike Avatar
    Big Mike

    In 1997, Montana voters passes I 137, banning open pit gold mines, by a margin of 53% to 47%. In 2006, they voted again to uphold the ban by a much larger margin.

    Thankfully, we are a headwaters state, and don’t have to deal with contaminants from other states (with one very notable exemption on the North Fork Flathead). Utah and Idaho are not so lucky.

    Nevada voters must pass a similar ban, and pressure should be applied by downstream interests.

    Healthy rivers are far more valuable than gold, both in dollars and ecologically. It’s time we told the mining companies that we’re tired of cleaning up their messes, and place strict regulations on the creation and disposal of toxic mine waste.

  7. Darrell Griner Avatar
    Darrell Griner

    Remember that tons of mercury fall on america each and every year, and most of that comes from china and india. Skilled dredgers would like to clean up the elemental mercury and help to eliminate that side of the equation from methyl mercury genesis. But we’ve been told that dredging won’t be fair to the fisherman, while they for the most part, are responsible for the demise of the fish populations here on planet earth. (like the atlantic cod. ) When the fish come back they will probably be fished again as if there isn’t any end to them. Can anyone explain how the fish suvived the mining methods of the original gold miners? Millions of cubic yards of material washed into our rivers, their habitat? and what about the millions of pounds of mercury added to the run off? Then to be taken to the brink of extinction, mostly because of fishing. If I were to believe that wiggins sb670 bill was about equity as stated then I really must believe that the christians did burn Rome.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan