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EPA Gives COMINCO Go-ahead For Preliminary Construction of Disputed Red Dog Mine

Release Date: 3/8/2000
Contact Information: Doug Hardesty
(206) 553-6641

March 8, 2000 - - - - - - - - - - 00-18

The Environmental Protection Agency today gave the Cominco company the go-ahead to begin weather-sensitive construction of a concrete pad meant for an electricity generator at its growing Red Dog Mine north of Kotzbue. The air pollution controls to be installed on the generator have been the focus of a dispute between the company, the state and the EPA.

EPA’s action today, which amends a February 8 EPA order prohibiting construction, clears the way for the company to begin construction of infrastructure that can only be completed during the short Alaska construction season.

“Our go-ahead today,” said EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Chuck Findley, “is an acknowledgment that, regardless of the outcome of the dispute, the generator will still be built. The dispute isn’t over the generator but which air pollution controls will be installed on it. We want Cominco to be able to build what it needs to have in place so that once the dispute is settled the company can complete construction.”

Pollution controls on four other new generators to be installed at the growing mine -- the largest zinc mine in the world -- have not been challenged by EPA.

Citing authorities under the federal Clean Air Act, last December, EPA ordered the state to not issue a permit to Cominco for the generator in question. The state ignored the order and issued the permit. Then, on February 8, 2000, EPA ordered the company not to build the generator, which the EPA believes should be fitted with the best available pollution control technology.

The company and the state have filed an appeal in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging EPA’s authority to overrule a state-issued permit. The company and the state contend Cominco cannot afford the technology EPA suggests.

EPA does not believe that the state’s record supports this contention.