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EPA Settles Idaho Mining Case

The U.S. Department of Justice and EPA announced a settlement with the owner of the Bunker Hill Mine, Placer Mining Company, Inc., saying it resolves Placer Mining's cleanup liability in Idaho's northern panhandle and removes a barrier to new operations at the zinc-lead-silver mine.

As part of the settlement, Bunker Hill Mining Corp. will pay EPA up to $20 million, on behalf of Placer Mining, in satisfaction of EPA's past costs claim against Placer Mining, and Placer Mining agrees drop its "takings" case against the United States. BHMC can return the mine to production after a hiatus of more than two decades.

The federal agencies reported the settlement:

  • Protects area waterways and ecosystems through the continued treatment of 1,300 gallons of acid mine drainage discharged per minute
  • Shifts responsibility for future wastewater treatment from federal taxpayers to the new operator
  • Offers more regulatory certainty for current and future mine owners/operators
  • Resolves close to three decades of litigation surrounding the cleanup of contaminated mine waste in Idaho's Silver Valley

"Today's settlement ends years of litigation, recoups for taxpayers millions of dollars in cleanup costs, and ensures a better environment for the people of Idaho, while also spurring economic growth and job creation in the northern panhandle region," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased to work with our partners at EPA to bring this longstanding matter to a good resolution."

"Through this settlement, EPA is clearing the way for a new operator to resume mining, bringing jobs back to the community, while also securing the ongoing cleanup of contaminated water and recovery of EPA's past cleanup costs," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "EPA is delivering on its Superfund Task Force commitments."

The mine is within the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site, which runs next to Interstate 90 from near the Montana state line, along the Coeur d’Alene River, and reaches into the state of Washington. EPA first listed the site on its National Priorities List in 1983, after which cleanup of mine waste contamination in surface water, groundwater, soil, and sediment began across the site. EPA and the state of Idaho jointly lead the project and are coordinating approximately $25 million to $30 million in cleanup projects annually.

The agencies said funding from this settlement will help reimburse EPA for past costs incurred related to the Central Treatment Plant in Kellogg, Idaho, which has been treating acid mine drainage from the Bunker Hill Mine since 1995. The agreement is structured to recover up to 82 percent of the past costs for water treatment and result in payment for all future water treatment costs.

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