Mining company looking for more gold on Buckhorn

YAKIMA – The state Department of Ecology fined Crown Resources Corp., a subsidiary of Kinross Gold Co., $22,000 for submitting inaccurate water discharge test results at its gold mine project on Buckhorn Mountain near Chesaw.

The reporting errors violate the project’s water quality permit, which requires the company to capture and route water from the underground mine to a treatment plant before discharging it to waters of the state, according to a statement released by the agency last week.

“The gold mine’s water and stormwater management systems are designed to control, treat and dispose of waters associated with the mining. Sources of water at the mine include underground mine dewatering and wells, drainage from the ore and development rock and stormwater runoff from industrial and non-industrial areas at the mine site,” says Ecology’s statement.

The permit requires the company to collect discharge water samples every two weeks. The inaccurate reports to Ecology occurred from samples the company collected from May to August of 2009.

Charlie McKinney, a water quality manager in Ecology’s Yakima office said, “We have every expectation that this mining project can and will operate in a way that protects nearby surface and underground water supplies.”

To the company’s credit, it discovered the errors, conducted their own internal investigation and notified us, McKinney added.

“We discovered the water sampling was not accurate and represented poor procedures when a former employee brought it to our attention,” said Doug Jones, Crown Resources vice president and general manager, adding, “The past inaccuracies have been fully addressed by the company and there have been no issues with the water treatment plant since August 2009. We have taken numerous actions to ensure continued future compliance with all permits and authorizations.”

After learning of the inaccuracies from the former employee, Crown Resources did their own investigation of the problem.

“Then Ecology did their investigation. We made some major improvements to our water treatment plant in general in August 2009 as well as to our sampling procedure. The former employee said it was a good thing we did because of the way we had been doing our sampling,” Jones said. “Three things worked in our favor: The problem was discovered early and repaired; there was no significant environmental damage downstream and there have been no issues since August of 2009.

Crown Resources has 30 days to pay the civil penalty or may file an appeal of the penalty with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.