From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
Federal and state officials have agreed in principle to a $6 million settlement with a mining company to recover cleanup costs at the Superfund site just north of town.
A proposed consent decree with Denverbased CoCa Mines was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver Thursday.
The proposal would still be subject to a 30-day public comment period and the approval of the court.
Through last June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had spent $10 million on the Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock Pile Superfund site.
More than half of that money went toward the stabilization of the waste rock pile and the reinforcement of the West Willow Creek channel that runs along side it during an emergency response in 2008 and 2009.
In a complaint filed the same day as the proposed consent decree, EPA alleged that a company operating under a joint venture partnership with CoCa had sent 500 tons of mine waste onto the waste rock pile and contributed to its destabilization.
The complaint also alleged that CoCa inherited liability for the site when it bought out its former partner in 1989 and thereafter failed to conduct cleanup.
CoCa Mines owned and operated in an area that’s now part of the Superfund site from 1973 to 1993.
Cleanup work at the Superfund site has come to a halt while EPA conducts a feasibility study on potential remedies for the Nelson Tunnel, which is responsible for the majority of the contaminants in West Willow Creek.
One potential option would involve the dewatering of the collapsed tunnel, although it would be dependent upon the initiation of mining by Rio Grande Silver at the nearby Bulldog Mine. The tunnel, completed in 1902, was used to drain and ventilate mines along the Amethyst vein, while also providing a route to haul ore out of the mines.