Gold in Them Hills
Over-grazing isn't the only damaging human activity in Oregon's outback. In addition to general development and damage from off-road vehicles, mining has also taken a toll. As recently as 15 years ago, a mini-gold rush hit the region. Every time gold prices increase, the region is at risk. According to the Sierra Club, gold mining in the Owyhee Canyonlands, for example, would rely on the cyanide heap leach process, resulting in acres of open pits poisoned with mine tailings. Years ago, miners also extracted cinnabar, the main source of mercury, from the flanks of Steens Mountain and utilized Chinese laborers to mine borax from the waters of geothermal Borax Lake.