Ecology Dept. Prepping to Let Mining Company Discharge Water

By Tom Bacon

After imposing a whopping penalty for water quality violations on a gold mine in far northern Washington, the state's ecology department is now ready to grant a new 5-year water discharge permit. 

Department of Ecology engineers believe new rules which they've drafted and issued for public comment will protect the environment in the Okanogan National Forest near Chesaw, Washington, just a few miles from the Canadian border. The Buckhorn gold mine atop a 56-hundred foot mountain, has been a sore point for environmentalists ever since it was conceived about 20 years ago.

Last year, the Department of Ecology imposed a $395,000 fine on the Canadian gold company which is working the mine, citing failure to capture and treat waste water generated by spring runoff. In addition, a small holding pond gave way two years ago resulting in a landslide which fouled a small stream below the mine.

In negotiations, Kinross Mining paid the state 80-thousand dollars, and agreed to put in environmental safeguards costing about 180-thosuand dollars. The company also agreed to re-pay the ecology agency for the cost of stationing employees at the mine to oversee compliance work. Ecology officials said the new wastewater permit will be more stringent than the old one, and the agency will give the mining company a year to bring its discharge standards up to snuff.

The Buckhorn Mountain mine may hold as much as 100-million ounces of gold. Three years ago it produced 199-thousand ounces from about 900 tons of ore each day.
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