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EPA Orders Mining Companies to Continue Cleanup Work at Midnite Mine

Release Date: 11/10/2008
Contact Information: Ellie Hale, Superfund Program, (206) 553-1215, Tony Brown, EPA Public Affairs, (206) 553-1203,

(Seattle, WASH. – November 10, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a unilateral administrative order to international mining company Newmont USA Limited and its subsidiary Dawn Mining Company, LLC, to continue treating contaminated water at the Midnite Mine Superfund Site in eastern Washington State.

EPA’s Order requires the companies to continue operating a system that captures and treats water at the site to remove uranium and other metals. Failure to operate the system would contaminate Blue Creek, which flows to the Spokane River, and would delay the overall cleanup of the site. The Order was issued on Friday, November 7 to the two companies that operated this open-pit uranium mine on the Spokane Indian Reservation from the mid-50s until 1981.

Since starting water treatment in 1992, the mining companies have disposed of the resulting treatment sludge, which contains uranium, at the mill where they once processed ore. The mill, located in Ford, Washington, is being closed under Washington State authority. As a result, the mining companies must prepare to dispose of the sludge at an alternative disposal site. As low-level radioactive waste, the sludge will have to be taken to a licensed facility, such as U.S. Ecology in Washington State, until the treatment system can be altered to remove the uranium separately.

“EPA and the State of Washington have encouraged the mining companies to plan alternative disposal for the sludge for some time,” said Dan Opalski, Director of EPA’s Region 10 Office of Environmental Cleanup in Seattle. “EPA’s action will ensure that Blue Creek isn’t impacted while design of the overall cleanup goes forward.”

In a ruling earlier this summer, the federal district court in Spokane found both Newmont USA Limited and Dawn Mining Company LLC liable for approximately $15 million in EPA investigative costs and for future cleanup costs at the site. The cleanup plan, selected by EPA in 2006, calls for moving and covering over 33 million tons of waste rock to prevent formation of acid drainage. Future cleanup costs are estimated at $150 million.

For further information, see EPA’s website for Midnite Mine:

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