Singatse Peak Services' recent agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency provides the company with a measure of legal protection from litigation against contaminated ground at an old mine site in Yerington.
The company agreed to provide site upgrades and conduct studies on how to best clean up contaminated ground from the Anaconda copper mine in Yerington. The agreement also provides an accelerated schedule for exploring the company's copper interests in the region, said Steve Dischler, vice president and general manager for Quaterra Resources Yerington district.
The subsidiary of Vancouver-based Quaterra agreed with the EPA this month that it will fund up to $420,000 to re-line fluid management ponds and repair drainage ditches around heap-leach pads at its McArthur site.
The mine had been worked in the past by Anaconda, Atlantic Richfield Company and Amertico. ARCO also will contribute up to $420,000 for remediation efforts, Dischler said.
Work is expected to be completed by the end of October.
"This is important for us. We weren't here when these issues were created, and we don't want to be responsible for those historical liabilities," Dischler said. "This strengthens our legal protection for being liable for the existing contamination."
Under a second phase of the agreement, the company will evaluate how the EPA could achieve five years of capacity with the current infrastructure because fluids are still draining from the heap leach pads at the site. A third phase involves the possibility of implementing some of the findings of the study.
"We looked at this when we purchased the site in May of 2011," Dischler said. "We took on the site, but we didn't take on the environmental liabilities. Those are the responsibility of the previous operators."
The agreement also means the old Anaconda mine site, which includes a massive pit filled with several billion gallons of contaminated water, won't be listed as a National Priorities List site. The listing would have made it more difficult for Singatse to continue is exploration and evaluation work at the site, Dischler said.
"Many local stakeholders and local elected officials are against having the site listed as an NPL site," he said. "In trying to look for other alternatives, we came up with the idea along with Atlantic Richfield to co-fund an interim action.
"This agreement provides us time to evaluate the site, and it provided the company in exchange for the costs we incurred a covenant not to sue for the existing contamination."
Singaste is looking to reprocess residual materials at the site, including material left on existing heap leach pads, low-grade ore and leach tailings. It's also conducting exploration drilling to determine the amount of copper left in the ground in and around the Anaconda pit.