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Bunker Hill Mine Owes Taxpayers Millions for Waste Treatment Costs

Release Date: 4/6/2004
Contact Information: Camo Grandinetti
(206) 553-8696

April 6, 2004

Mine owner refuses to treat toxic water; 1997 mine pipe failure polluted Kellogg, Wardner streets and homes

After years of having their orders to fix dangerous mine-waste problems ignored, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice are now asking the U.S. District Court in Boise to demand that the New Bunker Hill Mine reimburse the U.S. taxpayers for treating billions of gallons of highly acidic, metals-laden water (acid mine drainage, or AMD) coming from the mine, and pay for the current and future costs of treating the toxic mine water. Untreated, the AMD is the largest source of metals contamination in the entire Coeur d’Alene Basin.

The Bunker Hill Mine was once one of the world’s largest lead and zinc mines, covering approximately 6500 acres with underground workings of 6000 vertical feet and 150 miles of tunnels. The government has been treating all of the mine’s AMD and has also intervened to contain flooding on contaminated mine properties.

In the complaint served today, the government asks the Court to force the mine owner to:
  • repay the government at least $15 million in costs it has incurred for treating the billions of gallons of acidic waste coming from the mine and for responding to other contamination from the owner’s property;
  • take responsibility for managing and treating the acid mine drainage from his property; and
  • pay penalties for refusing to comply with previous EPA orders to fix the problems at the mine that were posing an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health or welfare of the environment”

“No other operating mine in the country has been able to shift its costs to the taxpayers in this way,” said EPA Regional Administrator John Iani. “It’s time for mine owner to accept his responsibility and remove this significant burden from the backs of the taxpayers.”

The complaint served today is in response to a federal Court of Claims Judge’s request that the government formally substantiate its claims that the mine owner owes millions to the federal taxpayers for costs incurred to treat toxic waste from the mine. The Court of Claims Judge is presiding over a case the mine owner has brought against the government for its actions in responding to the contaminated flood waters flowing off his property.