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Home > Feature Articles > Mining Strategies for Sustainable Land Management

Mine Contamination Affects Community - EPA Cleanup Gets Expensive

Mining operations enhanced levels of naturally occurring uranium, making the radiological substance more pervasive and mobile...requiring management and cleanup with EPA funds

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ARCO will reimburse the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $2,770, 440 for work preformed by the agency at the Anaconda mine site in Yerington, Nev.

The major threats on the site come from metals contaminating the groundwater and fugitive dust that could impact human health and surface water.

Mining operations enhanced levels of naturally occurring uranium, making the radiological substance more pervasive and mobile in and around the site. Additional concerns include contaminated surface water that can impact wildlife. Ultimately, the massive leach heaps and the leach fluid ponds must be addressed to prevent further contamination of ground water.

Because the Anaconda mine site is not on or proposed for the EPA’s National Priorities List, ARCO’s continued participation in this process is essential to cleaning up the Anaconda mine site.

“Recovering these funds is an important step in moving the Anaconda Mine cleanup forward,” said Keith Takata, director of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest superfund division. “We can use the funds to continue the cleanup while we work with our state and local partners find a more permanent solution.”

Since 2000, the EPA has spent approximately $6 million at the Anaconda Mine site investigating and addressing wastes abandoned at the site.

Remediation and Prevention Solutions for the Mine

Specific actions include a spring 2006 action by the EPA to cap 100 acres of mine tailings to prevent erosion and dust blowing from the site. The agency also constructed and lined a new pond before the fall and winter rain season to prevent overflow of mine drainage, along with completing other upgrades to the system.

Site Evaluation of the Mine Under two previous orders, ARCO is performing other response actions at the site, including broad investigation of the nature and extent of ground water contamination.

Originally known as the Empire Nevada Mine, the site began operation around 1918 and was acquired in 1953 by the Anaconda Minerals Company. From 1977 to 1982 the company was owned by Atlantic Richfield Company and then sold to Don Tibbals, a local resident, who subsequently sold his interests to Arimetco Inc., with the exception of the Weed Heights community.

Arimetco operated a copper recovery operation from existing ore heaps within the site from 1989 to November 1999. Arimetco has terminated operations at the site and is currently managed under the protection of the United States Bankruptcy Court in Tucson, Ariz.

Without adding the site to the National Priorities List, federal funding will not be available for comprehensive remediation.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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