Alaska Coal Mine Agrees to Fine for Discharges into Local Waterways

The mine had 11 unpermitted discharges between April 2007 and July 2010.

Usibelli Coal Mine Inc., owner of an open-pit coal mine near Healy in Alaska’s central interior, has signed a consent agreement and final order that resolves water permit violations and numerous unpermitted discharges. As part of the agreement, Usibelli will pay a $60,000 penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to documents associated with the case, the mine had 11 unpermitted discharges into the Nenana River, Hoseanna Creek, Sanderson Creek, and Francis Creek between April 2007 and July 2010. During that time, it also violated its discharge permit limits 10 times.

According to Edward Kowalski, director of EPA’s regional office of compliance and enforcement, mining responsibly means paying attention and looking ahead to prevent future problems.

“Many of these discharges could have been minimized or avoided,” Kowalski said. “By simply using and maintaining best management practices, we believe this penalty could have been avoided. Mining responsibly means making water quality protection a top priority.”

Sanderson Creek, Hoseanna Creek, Francis Creek, and nearby gravel ponds are all classified by the State of Alaska as suitable for use as water supply, water recreation, and growth and propagation of fish, shellfish, other aquatic life, and wildlife.

Usibelli has 30 days from the signature date to pay the fine and settle the case.