I saw many ghost towns growing up in the west — not the swinging saloon door, boardwalk, howdy-mam ones. Those were boot hill tourist traps. I’m talking about the towns my father knew of, mostly high in the mountains. Places you’d get to by following wagon trails, dry impressions in the ground. There was never much left, but never much to begin with. These towns were built by people who had always lived with impermanence, dreams, hope, desperately hard work and stark reality.
The wealth that was drained from the mountains by their work was never theirs to keep. The treasures taken until the land could give no more — the silver, gold, copper, ore, the minerals and metals needed by other people in other places were taken by the corporations who claimed that right. They left the town to become nothing, a dead town surrounded by a dying environment, hydro-mined half mountains, rubble miles deep where nothing will grow, dynamited shafts and tunnels, wounds that will never heal. Barren land couldn’t support itself or any other life so people had no choice but to leave and to leave behind a ghost town.
I’m afraid I will see the creation of a multitude of ghost towns in my lifetime. However, I now call them Haliburton towns in honor of the Haliburton loophole which strips us of the right to know the toxins used in the fracking of our land. We know enough of the poisons, arsenic, vanadium and adamantine proven to cause cancer, kidney failure, and (God help us) so much more.
Corporations prey on the needy and the uninformed. Selling mineral rights may seem to be the answer when families need to be fed and clothed, mortgages paid, and help too far beyond. I understand well. My husband and I did not come gently into retirement here. We had lost everything, our home, our land, all our savings.
When mineral rights are sold, it must be enough to relocate, it must be enough to be able to relocate without selling a current home because if there is a well on your property, banks will not insure for re-sale. It must be enough to relocate your neighbors and anyone living downstream because that contaminated water is forever. It is a terrible thing to lose the place you love. It is unforgivable to leave our children the dead legacy of ghost towns.