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Crown Resources Corp. has entered into an agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology to settle a penalty issued last year for water quality violations at the Buckhorn gold mine near Chesaw.
On July 16, 2012, Ecology assessed a $395,000 penalty to Crown when the operation’s water treatment systems failed to adequately capture and treat mine water during the 2011 and 2012 spring seasons, resulting in permit violations. Also in 2011, Ecology determined that discharges of treated mine water created slope instability and triggered a landslide that impacted a small stream below the mine.
As part of the settlement, Crown will pay $80,000, a portion of the penalty, and will undertake environmental projects worth $180,000 in the local area of the mine. The projects will be approved by Ecology and completed within the next three years.
Crown agreed to the process and schedule for issuing a new wastewater discharge permit that will contain more stringent limits for groundwater and treated wastewater discharged from the mine. A schedule of compliance and interim limits will allow Crown to bring the Buckhorn Site into compliance with the new limits in a timely manner. The new permit is scheduled to be issued on Nov. 1, 2013.
Crown also agreed to reimburse Ecology for the costs of dedicating one full-time and one part-time employee to oversee the ongoing permitting and compliance efforts at the Buckhorn Mine over a three-year period.
“We believe this settlement with Crown, along with a new, more stringent permit, provides us the best path to assure that the Buckhorn Mine protects surface and groundwater from contamination while the mine continues to operate,” said Charlie McKinney, Ecology’s water quality manager in Yakima, who oversees the permit.
The agreement also outlines a process for resolving disputes that may arise while implementing terms of the settlement or the new NPDES permit.