#GoldKingMine settlement — @Land_Desk #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

From The Land Desk (Jonathan Thompson):

We have just received word that the federal government and the owner of the Sunnyside Mine have agreed to pay a total of $90 million to settle claims relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine blowout. The proposed consent decree will be posted in the Federal Register and opened to public comment for 30 days prior to being finalized.

That consent decree will “resolve all claims, cross-claims, and counterclaims between the United States and Sunnyside Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold Corporation (the “Mining Defendants”) in this multidistrict litigation,” according to the U.S. District Court of New Mexico filing.

The Land Desk will have more details—along with a wonkfest explaining why Sunnyside is even involved with an incident that occurred at a mine it doesn’t own—next week.

The settlement by the numbers:

The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

$40.95 million

Amount Sunnyside Gold Corp., a subsidiary of Canada-based Kinross Gold, will pay to the federal government under the settlement, all of which will be used to finance cleanup relating to the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site.

$4.05 million

Amount Sunnyside Gold will pay to the Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment.

$45 million

Amount the U.S. government, on behalf of federal settling agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service—will pay to “appropriate federal accounts” under the settlement.

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

From The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon):

The Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Department, Department of the Interior, Department Agriculture and state of Colorado announced Friday they have reached a settlement with Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent company Kinross Gold Corp. to fund remediation in the Bonita Peak Mining District near Silverton.

In the case of an old-fashioned standoff, the federal government will drop its claims against Sunnyside Gold Corp. and Canadian mining company Kinross Gold Corp. and the two companies will drop their claims against the federal government after the settlement.

Sunnyside Gold Corp. will pay $40.95 million to the federal government and the EPA and another $4.05 million to Colorado, while the United States will contribute $45 million to the cleanup of mining contamination in the area…

The agreement marks the end of Sunnyside Gold Corp.’s remediation work in the Bonita Peak Mining District. The EPA previously ordered the company to undertake a costly investigation of groundwater in the area in March 2018.

The state of Colorado has also released Sunnyside from its reclamation permit obligations, which require the company to clean up its past mining operations and meet the conditions of a reclamation plan approved by the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, a branch of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

In addition, the settlement limits the future liability of both Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent company…

The settlement was made as a matter of practicality with no admission of wrongdoing or liability, Myers said in an email to The Durango Herald.

Myers noted the federal government’s matching $45 million was a result of the federal government’s own liability for the Gold King Mine spill and damage to the surrounding area…

The Colorado and the federal governments have argued that Sunnyside Gold Corp. is partly at fault and responsible for funding remediation in the Bonita Peak Mining District after placing bulkheads in the 1990s to prevent the drainage of contaminated water.

Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

In legal filings, the state has said the bulkheads backed up waste in surrounding mines, including the Gold King Mine, which was released when EPA contractors accidentally caused a blowout…

The EPA has already spent more than $75 million to remediate the site.

The Bonita Peak Mining District Community Advisory Group is working to define water-quality targets and other environmental standards that will need to be met for the area to be considered decontaminated. Those targets will help guide the work of the EPA…

[Ty Churchwell] said a full cleanup of the site will likely take at least another decade. He pointed to similar Superfund sites near Leadville and Idaho Springs that each took about two decades.

The settlement is a step in that direction.

Silverton, Colo., lies an at elevation of 9,300 feet in San Juan County, and the Gold King Mine is more than 1,000 feet higher in the valley at the left side of the photo. Photo/Allen Best

From The Associated Press (James Anderson) via The Colorado Sun:

The agreement must be approved by the U.S. District Court in the District of New Mexico after a 30-day public comment period…

An EPA-led contractor crew was doing excavation work at the entrance to the Gold King Mine, another site in the district not owned by Sunnyside, in August 2015 when it inadvertently breached a debris pile that was holding back wastewater inside the mine.

Settling ponds used to precipitate iron oxide and other suspended materials at the Red and Bonita mine drainage near Gold King mine, shown Aug. 14, 2015. (Photo by Eric Vance/EPA)

An estimated 3 million gallons of wastewater poured out, carrying nearly 540 U.S. tons of metals, mostly iron and aluminum. Rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah were polluted…

Monies will be used for water and soil sampling and to build more waste repositories. The EPA said in a statement Friday it has spent more than $75 million on cleanup work “and expects to continue significant work at the site in the coming years.”

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

The proposed consent decree follows Sunnyside settlements with New Mexico and the Navajo Nation earlier this year. Sunnyside admits no fault in the agreement.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

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