ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Navajo Nation and the State of New Mexico have reached multi-storey dollar settlements with mining companies to resolve claims from a 2015 spill that resulted in arsenic, bright- up rivers in three western states. The yellow was filled with yellow plume and other heavy metals, officials confirmed on Wednesday.
Under an agreement with Navajo Nation, Sunnyside Gold Corp. – a subsidiary of Canada’s Kinross Gold – will pay the tribe $ 10 million. The New Mexico agreement includes a $ 10 million payment to the state’s natural resources for injuries, along with $ 1 million in lost revenue and environmental response costs.
The spill discharged 3 million gallons of wastewater from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado. A crew hired by the US Environmental Protection Agency triggered the spill while trying to open the mine in preparation for a possible cleanup.
The wastewater made its way into the Animes River and eventually came down to the San Juan River, prompting a major backlash by government agencies, tribes and private groups.
Water utilities were forced to close the intake valves, and farmers stopped drawing from the rivers as the plume moved downstream.
The tribe said poisonous water flows through the 200-mile river on Navajo land.
“The Gold King Mine Blowout caused damage to entire communities and ecosystems in the Navajo Nation,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement. “We held those responsible for plowing or being held responsible, and this agreement is just the beginning.”
Tribe claims are pending against the EPA and its contractors. About 300 individual tribal members have claims pending as part of a separate lawsuit.
Nez said: “It is time that the United States fulfills its promise to the Navajo Nation and provides the necessary relief for the victims from which the Navajo Nation and its people are born.”
The EPA under the Obama administration claimed that water quality had quickly returned to pre-spill levels. But New Mexico officials, tribal leaders, and others voiced ongoing concerns about collecting heavy metals in the sediment and causing a stir every time rain or snowfall resulted.
State officials said the Animus Valley is now well within irrigation standards. But farmers are left behind stigma due to low sales.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Baldrus, who is shepherding the state’s legal claims, said in a statement that he was happy to settle this part of the case and it is a step toward holding polluters accountable.
“It is now the American EPA, who should step up and take responsibility,” Baldas said. I will continue to fight the federal government in particular to protect our most vulnerable communities and the pristine environment, which should also be attributed to these communities. . “
In August, the US government settled a lawsuit brought by the state of Utah, which the state had initially received as damages.
In that case, the EPA agreed to spend $ 220 million of its own funds to finance $ 3 million in Utah clean water projects and to clean up abandoned mine sites in Colorado and Utah.
Following the spill, the EPA designated the Gold King and 47 other mining sites as the Superfund Cleanup District. The agency is still reviewing comprehensive cleaning options.