PCHB Confirms Discharge Permit

Water surrounding the Buckhorn Mine must be left as clean as it was prior to mining

On July 30, 2015, the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) denied Crown Resources/Kinross’s appeal of the NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit, thereby affirming that the water surrounding the Buckhorn Mine must be left as clean as it was before the mine was developed. The Buckhorn Mine continues to discharge pollutants into the environment in violation of their waste discharge permit.

The PCHB summarized the decision, “The Board concludes that Crown failed to carry its burden to establish the invalidity of the Modified 2014 Permit’s conditions regarding: outfall capacity, compliance schedule, interim discharge limits, final limits, definition of capture zone, and the haul road.”

History has shown that water quality issues arising during mining can last for generations. The PCHB concluded their review by saying, “The conditions in the Modified 2014 Permit requiring the capture and treatment of all Mine-contaminated waters are reasonable provisions that attempt to make certain that the Mine does not leave a legacy of water pollution.”

The NPDES permit was issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology on February 27, 2014, after years of negotiation with Kinross. Kinross appealed the permit on February 28, 2014. The NPDES permit clarifies the farthest extent from the mine that contaminants are allowed to spread. It also confirms that the water quality standard (beyond this farthest extent) is the background level from before the mine was constructed. 

Although the mine has pumped massive amounts of groundwater from Buckhorn Mountain in order to mine, this has not been sufficient to keep mine contaminants from escaping into nearby ground and surface water. Kinross has been slow to acknowledge and adequately address its water quality problems it has created. OHA is urging the mining company to come together with all the interested parties to address the issues and the numerous violations that have built up since the penalty settlement in June 2013.