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Issues

Closing the Buckhorn Mine 

The mine facilities are thought to be built on top of contaminated construction fill, which complicates reclamation. The fill must be removed because it is leaching contaminants into ground and surface water. However, the treatment facilities will be needed in order to treat the water in the years to come.

With the gold ore at the Buckhorn Mine exhausted, the Crown/Kinross mining company has expedited reclamation. This is a financial decision that will save the company money as the employees and contractors work themselves out of a job. Surface reclamation has involved plugging the mine adits and re-contouring the ground surface to resemble pre-mining conditions. In fall 2017, the treatment facility was decommissioned and the administration buildings were removed. The shop has been retrofitted to accommodate those functions, but for a period of time, the site lacked a facility to treat the water... Read more

Permit Enforcement Needed
Buckhorn Mine with Mt Baldy in background
The continuous permit violations at the Buckhorn Mine are causing consternation among those following the situation and the requirements. The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has the responsibility to uphold the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. OHA has suggested corrective actions that would increase the understanding of the contaminant flows at the mine site and lead to long-term solutions to the water quality problems on Buckhorn Mountain.... Read more
 

NPDES Permit Renewal

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." 
  
 

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Water Quality not improving at the Buckhorn Mine 

Mine Seepage Exceeds Permit Limits; Violations Mount

The 2018 Annual Coordination Meeting at the Buckhorn Mine included a presentation from Dr. Ann Maest, OHA’s consulting aqueous geochemist. Dr. Maest has worked on Buckhorn issues for 25 years and is an expert on the environmental impacts of mining, working on projects internationally.  In contrast to the water quality presentation given by Crown Resources, Dr. Maest took a critical look at the previous year’s data.  In her presentation, Dr. Maest concluded that, despite ongoing mitigation measures at the mine, water quality was not improving in key locations at the site. The presentation focused on the water quality impacts of two contaminants of concern: sulfate and nitrate... Read more


Crown/Kinross 2015 Mine Report claims, “No Action Needed”

Kinross Plans Unapprovable

Mine Facilities and Waste Rock
Each spring the company is required to report the results of monitoring activity. Once again the mining company has reported that “no action is required,” basically because it continues to ask the wrong questions. Lack of action on the part of the Department of Ecology has allowed Kinross to continue operating under outdated management plans, specifically the Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) and the Hydrologic Monitoring Plan (HMP). Two years ago, the current operating permit required updated plans that considered the water quality changes that occurred during the window of the first discharge permit. The AMP submitted by Crown Resources/Kinross Gold was basically the same as the one that has been in force from the beginning of operations, with no substantial reflection on its adequacy to address the current water quality issues. Ecology pointed this out, but has not required the follow-through that the permit requires. The company responded that what it submitted was adequate and that they would take no additional action... Read more 

Taxpayers Vulnerable for Buckhorn Mine Cleanup Costs ~ Ecology takes steps toward independent review
Sediment pond at Buckhorn

Last November, Kinross submitted a plan to Ecology that purported to detail the amount of money required to satisfy the company’s environmental mitigation and cleanup requirements on Buckhorn Mountain. This plan, known as the Environmental Protection Performance Security Plan (EPPS), contains the narrative and numeric components of the mine’s environmental reclamation bond. During a careful review of the EPPS by OHA and its consultants, serious omissions and underestimations were discovered, leading OHA to the conclusion that the amount of money secured by the bond is inadequate to protect taxpayers from shouldering the environmental cleanup costs at the Buckhorn Mine, should Kinross fail to meet its obligations... Read more

Water Rights for Mining Lapse on Buckhorn

Surge pond

The mining and industrial water rights for the Buckhorn Mountain Gold Mine expired on December 31, 2015, and now Crown Resources continues to operate the mine without a valid water right for mining use, using water purchased from the Curlew Water and Sewer District and trucking it to the mine site as a work-around. Crown/Kinross originally requested that the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) approve a 20-year extension to their temporary 8-year mining and industrial water rights. The request has since been revised to three years... Read more


Crown Receives “Get Out Of Jail Free” Card From Ecology


 
 
Instead of paying $395,000 for the penalty issued by Ecology in July 2012 for water quality permit violations at the Buckhorn Mine, Crown Resources will pay $80,000 and do $180,000 worth of supplemental remediation projects in the area. While this is not exactly “free,” considering there have been and continue to be millions of dollars worth of violations that Ecology has agreed not to enforce, Ecology’s actions are a generous forgiveness of responsibility. Crown has agreed to use its best effort to meet a timeline for implementing the NPDES renewal, but there is no consequence for failing to meet the deadline of November 1, 2013, which as of this time has already been delayed twice and the new target is February 1, 2014... Continue
 



 Failure of the Capture Zone


A groundwater capture zone is the area in which any mine-related contaminants are captured by mine water management, rather than being released to the environment without treatment.

By and large, the majority of the problems at the Buckhorn Mine are connected to the failure to maintain a capture zone. This was $376,000 of the $395,000 penalty assessed in July 2012. Crown attributes the problems to infiltration of storm water through contaminated rock, and so has not taken any actions to investigate or address the leaking of contaminants from the mine... Read more
 
 

 OHA to File a Citizen Lawsuit Under the Clean Water Act

 
On June 14, 2013, the Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) sent a letter to Crown Resources/Kinross Gold informing them that unless they “clean up their act,” a citizen lawsuit may be filed in Federal District Court, charging them with violations of their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and the Clean Water Act (CWA)... Continue


Exploration


Exploration in the Buckhorn Area


This section keeps you updated on exploration activities in the Okanogan Highlands, and also contains information about the extensive Buckhorn Exploration Proposal that was active from 2010-2014.