State moves to take care of mine sites in wake of bankruptcy
State environmental officials are taking charge at four mine sites in Nevada after being told their bankrupt owners can no longer do the job.
Arimetco Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., owns a copper mine near Yerington and three gold mines in the Gabbs area. The company has been in bankruptcy three years.
Jolaine Johnson of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection said the company can no longer care for the sites.
“They had been maintaining these sites so that we didn’t have environmental overflows and contamination, but they have indicated they can’t afford to pay those people any more and have left,” she said.
Workers were advised Friday that the mine sites are being abandoned.
“Abandonment of these mine sites is of critical concern since care and maintenance is required to preclude environmental degradation,” according to a statement by the division.
Johnson said that means recirculation of heap leach solutions to prevent waste ponds from overflowing and causing an environmental hazard. She said the division has funding available for the project and is having contractors look at the cost both of managing the sites now and cleaning them up.
“In a month or so we’ll have a pretty good idea what it’ll cost,” she said.
Johnson said the ponds contain dangerous pollutants, including cyanide, which is used in separating gold from ore. At this point there is no leakage and no danger of overflow from the ponds, she said.
Johnson said this isn’t the first time environmental protection division has had to step in, but these mines are the only ones the state is managing at this point.
“Most mines are set up and have funding to do the reclamation work,” she said. “This one fell apart.”
She said the state is also doing “everything we can” to recover costs of managing the mine sites through the bankruptcy courts.