Midas Gold Corp., presently headquartered in British Columbia, recently announced, following three years of extensive discussions, that U.S. federal agencies have authorized and directed the Company to perform agree-upon clean up actions to address contaminated legacy conditions within Idaho’s abandoned Stibnite mining district that are negatively impacting water quality.
While Midas Gold did not cause the legacy environmental problems at Stibnite, the recently signed agreement points to the need for timely environmental action. The Agreement between the company the the U.S. government allows the Company to voluntarily address environmental conditions at the abandoned mine site without inheriting the liability of the conditions left behind by past operators.
Should the Stibnite Gold Project move forward with proposed mining and restoration activities, the Agreement will also allow for comprehensive site cleanup by directing the Company to address legacy features including millions of tons of legacy mine tailings that fall outside of the Project footprint and would otherwise not be addressed.
With the Agreement in place, Midas Gold is now moving forward with plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from British Columbia, Canada to Boise, Idaho and intends to redomicile the Company to the United States.
Agreement Reached to Address Legacy Water Quality
Through an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent (“ASAOC” or the “Agreement”) signed on January 15, 2021 by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and U.S. Forest Service, with concurrence by the U.S. Department of Justice, Midas Gold has been instructed to clean up certain contaminated conditions within the Stibnite mining district in Idaho. The sources of contamination to be addressed by the Agreement are decades old and largely stem from tungsten and antimony mining during World War II and the Korean War, long before Midas Gold started planning for redevelopment of the site.
The cleanup Agreement was entered into under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) and is the result of almost three years of discussion with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The U.S. EPA also lead discussions with U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Forest Service, State of Idaho, and two Idaho tribes. Before finalizing the agreement, the EPA also conducted government-to-government consultation with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and Nez Perce Tribe.
“For decades, ground and surface water at Stibnite have suffered from elevated levels of arsenic and antimony,” said Laurel Sayer, CEO of Midas Gold Corp. and Midas Gold Idaho. “Yet, because the problems stem from historic mining activity, there are no responsible parties left to address the issues at hand. While we did not cause the problems impacting water quality today, we have always been clear on our intentions to be a part of the solution. We know redevelopment of the Stibnite Mining District for mining activity must include restoration of legacy features. So, when we saw the need to address sources of water contamination more quickly at Stibnite, we knew we had to offer our help.”
Importantly, the Agreement does not change the permitting process or anticipated permitting schedule for the Stibnite Gold Project through the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), nor does it alter any potential CERCLA liability or CERLCA defenses for Midas Gold or federal entities should the Stibnite Gold Project be fully permitted and move into operations. The Agreement only allows for specified EPA directed cleanup actions to occur.
“Today’s agreement develops a clear pathway for comprehensive cleanup activity at a long abandoned mine site and marks an important opportunity for meaningful water quality improvement at Stibnite,” said John C. Cruden, outside counsel for Midas Gold and former Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Department of Justice in President Obama’s Administration.
The Agreement comes with a determination by federal regulators that due to historical activity, site conditions presently constitute an “actual or threatened release of hazardous substances” and that time critical removal actions are necessary to protect human health and welfare and the environment. In order to provide investment and cleanup the legacy environmental hazards and waste left behind at Stibnite, Midas Gold reached an agreement with federal agencies under CERCLA to define the cleanup work the Company will conduct and to clarify how to protect the Company from inheriting the environmental liability of past actors who abandoned the site. This situation is not unique to Midas Gold but one that has stalled cleanup work at abandoned mine sites across the country. This Agreement may well provide an example for cleaning up abandoned mining sites elsewhere in the nation.
“Water quality in the Stibnite Mining District has been a known problem for decades. As the closest community to the site, I can tell you that cleanup is long overdue,” said Willie Sullivan, Yellow Pine Resident and board member of the Yellow Pine Water Users Association. “This agreement between the EPA and Midas Gold is the first meaningful step toward real improvements in water quality conditions for the East Fork South Fork Salmon River and downstream communities like Yellow Pine. We have seen Midas Gold’s commitment to doing business the right way and their willingness to help with clean up now tells me they are the right partner for this effort.”
The ASAOC consists of three primary phases. The first phase of the Agreement is designed to significantly improve water quality over the next four years. It includes several CERCLA “time critical removal actions” consisting of water diversion projects designed to move water so it may avoid contaminated areas of the site, and removal of over at least 325,000 tons of historical mine waste from problematic locations that are currently affecting water quality. In addition, Midas Gold has agreed to conduct a full biological assessment, Clean Water Act evaluation, and a cultural resource survey. To ensure all that important work will be done, Midas Gold is providing US$7.5 million in financial assurance for Phase 1 projects.
Phases 2 and 3 of the ASAOC would move forward if the Stibnite Gold Project receives permission to proceed with mining under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and would provide the opportunity for comprehensive and site-wide cleanup of legacy features and waste by including permission to address legacy areas that are not included in the restoration activities proposed by the Stibnite Gold Project.
To read more on this Agreement additional information may be found here: www.MidasGoldIdaho.com/news/asaoc/
SOURCE: Midas Gold