The Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the State of Colorado announced a settlement with Sunnyside Gold Corporation and its Canadian parent company Kinross Gold Corporation resolving federal and state liability related to the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, which includes the Gold King Mine and many other abandoned mines near Silverton, Colorado. If entered by the court, this agreement provides for the continued cleanup of mining-related contamination within the Upper Animas Watershed and will protect public health and the environment by improving water quality, stabilizing mine source areas, and minimizing unplanned releases.
Under the agreement, Sunnyside Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold Corporation will together pay $45 million to the United States and State of Colorado, and the United States will dismiss its claims against Sunnyside Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold Corporation. The United States will also contribute $45 million to the continuing cleanup at the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site and Sunnyside Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold Corporation will dismiss its claims against the United States.
“Today’s settlement holds these companies accountable for their past mining operations at the site,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement demonstrates the Justice Department’s and cleanup agencies’ continuing efforts, together with our state partners, to ensure that Superfund sites are investigated and remediated.”
“This settlement addresses the cleanup responsibility of the private mining companies and the federal government and ensures that site cleanup work will continue,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Working with our state and federal government partners, the cleanup will protect the environment and the health of the people who live, work, and enjoy recreational activities in the area.”
“This settlement will allow EPA to continue our important cleanup work at the site to protect human health and the environment,” said Director Betsy Smidinger of EPA Region 8’s Superfund and Emergency Management Division. “We look forward to working with our state and local partners to use these funds which will be utilized to improve the environment for the people who work, live, and recreate in the area.”
“The Gold King spill is a vivid reminder of the dangers associated with the thousands of abandoned and unclaimed hard rock mines across the United States, particularly in the West,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau. “Mining companies should be held accountable for these sites that put communities and tribal lands at risk of disastrous pollution. I’m proud that the Department of the Interior was able to play a part in this important settlement.”
“We are committed to protecting where Coloradan’s live, work and play,” said Director Tracie White of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Hazardous Material and Waste Management Division. “This settlement will allow continued cleanup of this Superfund site, in coordination with our federal and local partners, to ensure the protection of human health and the environment for generations to come,”
EPA leads cleanup activities at the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, and DOI and USDA retain authority on publicly managed land. Recent interim cleanup work at the site, including efforts to stabilize mine waste and reduce contaminant releases to surface waters from source areas, have improved environmental conditions and will inform the development of future cleanup remedies for the entire site under an adaptive management framework. EPA has already spent over $75 million on cleanup work at the site and expects to continue significant work at the site in the coming years.
More information about the site and this settlement can be found at www.epa.gov/superfund/bonita-peak.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The consent decree will be available for viewing here.