"The Chevron Questa Mine site is located near the Village of Questa in Taos County, New Mexico. The Site includes a former molybdenum mine and milling facility on 3 square miles of land and tailing impoundments on about 1.5 square miles of land. A pipeline running along State Highway 38 connects the milling facility to the tailings impoundments.
The Chevron Questa Mine, previously known as the Molycorp Mine, operated intermittently from 1920 until 2014, when Chevron Mining Inc. (CMI) permanently closed the mine. Open pit mining took place from 1965 to 1983. Mining operations and waste disposal contaminated soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater. While the mine was operating, about 328 million tons of acid-generating waste rock was excavated and deposited in nine large waste rock piles. After molybdenum was extracted from ore, the tailing was transported by pipeline to a tailing facility where it was deposited in tailing impoundments." ~ EPA Superfund website
The following is a creative account of my visit to the mine. By what I call, zen navigation, I happened upon a group of female bighorn sheep, some of which were tagged with a tracking device. It was surreal to see this about a mile before I reached the mine. Witnessing the juxtaposition of what seemed like a wildlife introduction, or study, with a mine that has been poisoning wildlife and the surrounding landscape for years was profound to me. Since this initial field visit for the purposes of creating paintings, I have encountered some animal of symbolic importance along the way in every subsequent "adventure."
I wrote this shortly after I visited the mine in April 2015, while I was re experiencing the 1960's classic film "Easy Rider." So that accounts for my creative spin on the situation. Also, it's worth noting that around the time of my visit, Chevron had been exposed in the press about intentionally covering up its own scientific research on climate change. They knowingly lead a disinformation campaign criticizing the scientific research, some of which was conducted by their own scientists, that had already concluded by the 1970's that carbon emissions from fossil fuels were drastically warming our planet. While promoting disinformation campaigns and using political systems to set back a populist consensus on climate change, Chevron used its own scientific research to locate fossil fuel deposits that would be made more accessible with the warming of global temperatures, speculate on this future oil revenue, and develop technology to extract it when it became profitable. Pernicious to say the least
A beautiful peak outside of Questa, NM completely removed, exploited for human progress. Molybdenum, a heavy metal not fully isolated till the 18th century, has a very high melting point making it ideal for all sorts of human construction and destruction. Id lean more toward the latter. Never mind the chemicals from extraction, and trace elements of this insoluble heavy metal, washing down the Red and into the Rio. Where else you gonna put it? Feed it to the kids. The moms’ll love it. So, back in the iron horse and up the trail I go. I follow the Red River up a couple miles through what should be pristine wilderness. The views are nice. Green pines, meadows, no flowers yet, and an expanding mountain in front of me. How short the memory is. Confronted soon with the beast. Chevron! “We’re committed to always.” I laugh. What else you gonna do? I drive around a few more bends in the road and find the entrance protected with high gates and security cameras. They aren’t just letting any monkeywrenching jackass in these days. You gotta work for it. All the service roads are marked with a no trespassing sign, as Woody’s rollin’ in his grave, and I don’t feel particularly like getting arrested this time, but I will take pictures of everything I can.
On my way back down towards the entrance, I stop to take pictures of their cameras. I’m noticing the same anonymous white truck with a couple unpleasant looking dudes passing me over and over. Just making sure this radical freak stays in his place. I start imagining the chatter on the CV. “Hey Joe, we got another radical hippy taking pictures in front of the entrance. Should I wait and see what he does, or go for the billy club to the face right away. What you think?” CV: “10-4, I can see him on my screen in here. Looks like he could use a little beating if you ask me, but we got orders from up above that we want to cut down on some of the bad PR so, … I think we should stand down for now, but keep an eye on that bastard and if he makes any sudden moves go ahead and take him out.” CV: “10- 4. I'll keep watchin him. Don’t think he’ll make it to the next parish.”
The click of the camera only reminds me that we blew it. I mean the big one. The only thing that has any real significance to anything in the cosmic joke. We blew it away like it was old tissue paper. Somewhere along the way we forgot our responsibility and became a slave to the illusion. It became insignificant, and so we blew away the sustenance of heaven for a moment of distraction. Everyone, who is at this moment enjoying an ice cold brew, rolling their eyes in the back of their head in front of a meaningless screen, is distracting themselves from the awful sorrow of truth. We fuckin blew it, man! Chevron! “We’re committed to always blowing it up our ass.”