The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have signed an agreement with Bunker Hill Mining, allowing the company to operate the Bunker Hill mine in northern Idaho without incurring liability for hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants that migrated from the mine in the past. Through a settlement agreement and order on consent for response action, Bunker Hill will pay $20 million to the EPA over a seven-year period for as long as it leases, owns and/or operates the mine. These payments are for the EPA’s prior response costs as contemplated by the lease/option on the mine. Bunker Hill will also make semiannual payments to the EPA for $480,000 for ongoing water treatment costs incurred at the EPA’s Central Treatment Plant. The company will also maintain the mine’s infrastructure to allow for proper management of effluent.
In exchange, the United States has agreed not to sue Bunker Hill for prior contamination migrating from the mine. The EPA agrees not to enforce any lien it may have on the mine so long as Bunker Hill is in compliance with its payment and maintenance work obligations. The agency also agrees to release any lien it may have on the mine upon the completion of Bunker Hill’s maintenance work and payment obligations.
“This agreement with the United States EPA and Department of Justice provides Bunker Hill or a subsidiary with the ability to operate the Bunker Hill mine,” said Bruce Reid, president and CEO of Bunker Hill Mining. “We can now accelerate the work required to reopen the mine. We will work together with the EPA to operate the mine in a way that will provide economic benefits for the local community in an environmentally prudent fashion.”
The agreement is subject to a 14-day public comment period, after which it will become effective.
Bunker Hill Mining Corp. has an option to acquire 100% of the Bunker Hill mine. It was the largest producing mine in the Coeur D’Alene zinc, lead and silver mining district in northern Idaho. Historically, the mine produced more than 35 million tons of ore grading on average 8.76% lead, 3.67% zinc, and 155 grams per ton.
The Coeur d’Alene Basin, also known as the Bunker Hill Mining & Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site, is located in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. Mining operations began in the area in 1883. According to the EPA, tailings were disposed of in rivers and streams leading to contaminants spreading throughout the floodplain of the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River. The site was added to the EPA’s National Priorities List in 1983. The EPA and its partners are currently in the process of cleaning up the site.