The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on April 29 announced that the U.S. District Court in New Mexico approved a consent decree settlement between EPA, the Justice Department, the Department of Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the State of Colorado and Sunnyside Gold Corporation and its Canadian parent company Kinross Gold Corporation regarding the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site. The EPA and the Justice Department previously announced the details of the proposed settlement on Jan. 21, which was subject to public review and comment prior to being finalized on April 29.
According to the EPA’s news release, the settlement provides additional funding for the continued cleanup of mining-related contamination within the Upper Animas Watershed and will assist with improving water quality, stabilizing mine source areas and minimizing releases of contaminants. The settlement also resolves certain federal liability related to the site, the EPA announced, which includes the Gold King Mine and other abandoned mines near Silverton, Colorado.
“This agreement is tremendous news, as it resolves certain alleged environmental liabilities between the parties, secures funds, and allows EPA to expand our cleanup activity at the Site,” said EPA Regional Administrator K.C. Becker in the April 29 news release. “We look forward to using these resources to address mining-related sources, including historic hardrock mines, tailings and waste rock to improve the environment for the benefit of the Animas River watershed and downstream communities.”
Under the agreement, Sunnyside and Kinross will pay $40.95 million to the U.S. and just over $4 million to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. All money recovered by the U.S. will be placed in a special EPA account and used to fund future cleanup actions at the site. The EPA announced the U.S. will also contribute $45 million to the ongoing cleanup of the site.
Under the agreement, Sunnyside is also relieved of its obligation to conduct investigation work at the site, which will be taken over by EPA, according to the news release. Finally, the agreement grants the U.S., the State of Colorado and other parties access to property owned by Sunnyside for the purpose of conducting future cleanup actions. The EPA’s April 29 announcement explains that resolution of these issues frees time and resources devoted to litigation and enables the EPA, the State of Colorado and partners to move forward and focus on the investigation and cleanup of the site.
The EPA leads cleanup activities at the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site, with DOI and USDA retaining roles and authorities for actions on publicly managed land. Recent interim cleanup work, including efforts to stabilize mine waste and reduce contaminant releases to surface waters from mining source areas, have improved environmental conditions and will help guide future cleanup actions, according to the agency. EPA has spent more than $75 million on cleanup work at the site to date.