OHA wants mine to address water pollution

Crown says working closely with Ecology, OHA

CHESAW – A watchdog group is calling on Crown Resources to address water pollution problems at the Buckhorn Gold Mine near Chesaw by initiating a comprehensive appraisal and taking corrective action.

The Okanogan Highlands Alliance, a long time critic of the mine and parent company Kinross Gold, said in a press release that since the mine began operations in 2008, water quality monitoring data in ground and surface water has showed mine contaminates are continuously escaping capture. They say the state Department of Ecology made a decision to forgive all previous water quality violations at the mine in order to break through a deadlock and start finding solution to the problems.

The mine is required to capture and treat contaminated water and has a permit to discharge water from the treatment facility and the treated water is relatively clean, according to the OHA.

“However, the increased level of mine contaminants outside the mine is coming from unpermitted sources,” they write.

The group says Crown has not established control of mine related contaminants and the Buckhorn Mine continues to discharge contaminants in locations where no discharge is authorized, degrading surface and groundwater and even exceeding water quality standards.

“We have been patient,” said David Kliegman, OHA’s Executive Director. “OHA has held off on Clean Water Act litigation in hopes that solutions can be achieved through cooperation. However, patience is not limitless. Cooperation means Kinross must apply on-the-ground efforts that improvement water quality.”

OHA is concerned that unless action is taken soon, long-term protection of water resources may be jeopardized for current and future generations. Data shows that contaminants outside the mine boundaries in surface and groundwater remain elevated. OHA believes Crown/Kinross has the resources to deal with the problems.

In response, “Crown’s top priority is to not only ensure compliance with existing permits, but to operate in an overall manner that is both environmentally and socially responsible,” said said Buckhorn General Manager Mark Ioli.

He added that the company continues to work closely with Ecology to maintain the highest environmental standards at the Buckhorn mine, particularly the protection of water quality.

“With Ecology’s oversight, Crown continues to implement a variety of on-the-ground measures that are designed to enhance water management systems at the mine. For example, we have increased water treatment capacity, improved facilities to augment stormwater management, and constructed water collection trenches,” said Ioli. “We also continue to work with OHA in a transparent manner to achieve our common goal of responsible mining at Buckhorn. Given Ecology’s extensive oversight and OHA’s continuing participation in the process, we are confident that Buckhorn will continue to operate in an environmentally sound manner.”