MAC/20: Mines and Communities

New Mexico Settles With Mining Companies Responsible for the Gold King Mine Disaster

Published by MAC on 2021-01-14
Source: Los Alamos Reporter, Santa Fe New Mexican

Catastrophic blowout released tons of toxic waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers in 2015.

The settlement is between the State of New Mexico and defendants Sunnyside Gold Corporation, which oversaw the construction of bulkheads that caused the Gold King Mine and nearby mines to fill with acidic mine water, and its parent companies Kinross Gold Corporation and Kinross  Gold U.S.A., Inc. The spill led to costs incurred by the state, local municipalities and tribal nations to clean up the contamination. New Mexico has sued the EPA and its contractors, alleging gross negligence, nuisance and trespassing, as well as violations of federal environmental laws. The case against the EPA is expected to go to trial in early 2022.

See also:

2019-07-08 USA: Sunnyside Gold slams EPA
2016-08-18 Navajo Nation sues EPA over metal sludge from Colorado mine spill
2016-06-19 Canadian Mining Giant Dries Up Water Resources in Mexico
2015-10-30 USA: EPA mine spill could have been prevented, probe concludes

State Of New Mexico Settles With Mining Companies Responsible For 2015 Gold King Mine Disaster

Suit against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) ongoing, will go to court in a year.

https://losalamosreporter.com/2021/01/13/state-of-new-mexico-settles-with-mining-companies-responsible-for-2015-gold-king-mine-disaster/

January 13, 2021

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, and the New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee announced Wednesday an $11 million settlement associated with  the 2015 Gold King Mine blowout that released tons of toxic metals and acidic waste into the Animas and  San Juan Rivers. The settlement is between the State of New Mexico and defendants Sunnyside Gold Corporation, which oversaw the construction of bulkheads that caused the Gold King Mine and nearby mines to fill with acidic mine water, and its parent companies Kinross Gold Corporationand Kinross  Gold U.S.A., Inc. The $11 million paid to the State of New Mexico includes $10 million for environmental  response costs and lost tax revenue, as well as $1 million to the Office of the Natural Resources Trustee  for injuries to New Mexico’s natural resources.

“Thanks to unprecedented levels of collaboration between state, tribal and local governments, the Animas  and San Juan rivers are healthy and clean again – supporting agricultural, recreational and cultural uses,”  said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “But that does not change the fact that the Gold King Mine disaster  harmed New Mexicans, harmed our environment, and continues to harm our economy. We have won this  battle, but we will continue to fight as we hold the U.S. EPA responsible for this terrible incident.”

“I am clear about the Environment Department’s mission: those who contaminate our precious natural  resources will face consequences,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “If the U.S. EPA truly  shares our mission of protecting and preserving the environment, they need to compensate the state for  the damages caused to our environment, our economy and our people.”  

“This settlement is a step toward holding accountable anyone who pollutes New Mexico. I am pleased to  settle this portion of the case. It is now the U.S. EPA who must step up and take responsibility,” said  Attorney General Hector Balderas. “I will continue to fight to protect our most vulnerable communities  and pristine environment, especially from the federal government, whichshould be held responsible to  these communities too.”

“The Gold King Mine blowout was a gut-wrenching reminder of how New Mexico residents suffer when  toxic substances are released into the environment,” said Natural Resources Trustee Maggie Hart  Stebbins. “Through this settlement, Governor Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Balderas are holding  polluters accountable and making sure that New Mexicans along the Animas and San Juan rivers are  compensated for their losses.”

Million gallons of bright yellow mine water contaminated with heavy metals flowed into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River. The toxic plume reached the Animas River and flowed into New Mexico and the San Juan River, which also runs through the Navajo Nation and Utah. The spill led to costs incurred by the state, local municipalities and tribal nations to clean up the contamination.  

The spill also caused pollution to agricultural areas and adversely impacted New Mexicans in the agricultural and recreational tourism industries in the northwest corner of the state. Although extensive testing  indicates that water used to irrigate crops in the Animas Valley is now safe and well within irrigation standards, farmers continue to see lower sales due the stigma left behind by the  catastrophic release.  

As a result, New Mexico sued the U.S. EPA, its contractors, and mining companies for damages sustained  by the state. The lawsuit includes allegations of negligence, gross negligence, nuisance, and trespass, as  well as violations of federal environmental laws. New Mexico seeks cost recovery, damages, injunctive  relief, and attorneys’ fees. The case against the U.S. EPA and its contractors is still moving through  federal court and is expected to go to trial in early 2022. The State of New Mexico intends to hold the U.S.  EPA and its contractors fully accountable and to the maximum extent the law allows for the harm they  caused to our environment and our economy.


Mining company to pay New Mexico $11 million for toxic Gold King spill

Scott Wyland

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/mining-company-to-pay-new-mexico-11-million-for-toxic-gold-king-spill/article_c2cd6db6-55d6-11eb-8fe9-07a5cf943fa5.html

Jan 13, 2021

The state of New Mexico has reached an $11 million settlement with companies responsible for the disastrous Gold King Mine blowout near Silverton, Colo., that released tons of toxic metals and acidic waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers in 2015.

The settlement is with Sunnyside Gold Corp., which oversaw construction of the bulkheads that caused mines to fill with acidic water, and parent companies Kinross Gold Corp. and Kinross Gold U.S.A. Inc.

The settlement covers $10 million in environmental response costs and lost tax revenue, as well as $1 million for damage to the state’s natural resources.

“Thanks to unprecedented levels of collaboration between state, tribal and local governments, the Animas and San Juan rivers are healthy and clean again — supporting agricultural, recreational and cultural uses,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “But that does not change the fact that the Gold King Mine disaster harmed New Mexicans, harmed our environment, and continues to harm our economy.”

Although the state has won this battle, Lujan Grisham said, it will continue to fight to hold the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responsible for the incident.

EPA workers and contractors caused the spill while trying to drain ponds near the mine entrance.

More than 3 million gallons of bright-yellow mine water laced with heavy metals flowed into Cement Creek and then the Animas River, the state Environment Department said in a statement.

The Animas River carried the toxic plume to the San Juan River, which runs through New Mexico and Utah, including the Navajo Nation.

New Mexico, local governments and tribal nations incurred hefty costs cleaning up the contamination, the agency said. The pollution adversely affected the agricultural, recreation and tourism industries in the state’s northwest corner.

Although extensive testing shows water used to irrigate crops in the Animas Valley is now safe, farmers continue to see lower sales due the lingering stigma from the toxic spill, the agency said.

New Mexico has sued the EPA and its contractors, alleging gross negligence, nuisance and trespassing, as well as violations of federal environmental laws.

The case against the EPA is expected to go to trial in early 2022.

“The Gold King Mine blowout was a gut-wrenching reminder of how New Mexico residents suffer when toxic substances are released into the environment,” Natural Resources Trustee Maggie Hart Stebbins said.

 

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