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Action Alert

Please write to Ecology’s Director Maia Bellon

Tell Director Bellon that enforcement action is urgently needed to protect Washington citizens and catalyze change from Kinross’s continued failure to accept responsibility for the water quality problems on Buckhorn Mountain. 

Below are some suggested talking points:

  • Kinross has shown that it will not take effective action unless Ecology vigorously enforces permit requirements.
  • Ecology can and should administratively order Kinross to: 
    • Analyze the extent and sources of the contamination plume
    • Assess the effectiveness of actions taken to date to stop the spread of contaminants
    • Recommend actions designed to stop the spread of contaminants
    • Develop a strict timeline for implementing recommendations
    • Submit an approvable Adaptive Management Plan
    • Submit a Hydrologic Monitoring Plan that reflects the 2014 NPDES requirements
    • Post an adequate environmental cleanup bond that reflects the current mine information

Ecology‘s current approach has not been effective in attenuating the problem of water contamination on Buckhorn Mountain. Kinross has demonstrated that it will neither undertake a comprehensive investigation of the source of these contamination problems, nor work cooperatively toward finding their solution, unless far greater pressure is placed upon them.

Washington waters are impaired by the mine’s continual discharge of pollutants.  Since shortly after the mine began operating in 2008, hundreds of contaminant exceedances have been identified. A major obstacle to finding a solution to this problem is that Kinross has not recognized the reality that a plume of contamination is escaping capture and impacting ground and surface water quality. This self-serving institutional denial has allowed Kinross to escape accountability by pleading ignorance.  
Unless all parties recognize that the capture zone is failing, no meaningful progress can be made toward a solution.  Unilateral action will not solve the mine’s problems. Instead of working with Ecology, Kinross has chosen to legally challenge the agency, delaying effective action. At this point, enforcement action is the only way to bring Kinross to the table. This important, long-overdue step is necessary to begin to develop a plan for effective action.

Kinross has proven that the status quo suits them, or even worse, that they actually thrive here. Without a strong response from Ecology, the company has: failed to submit an approvable Adaptive Management Plan (as required by their NPDES permit); significantly underestimated its financial obligations by posting an inadequate environmental cleanup bond; filed a nuisance lawsuit against Ecology in Ferry County Superior Court; and is attempting to slow the enforcement of the current NPDES permit, at the expense of taxpayers, by tying it up in the courts. Ecology’s remonstrating, without concrete action, has proven to be ineffective at producing a meaningful change in course.  In the meantime, Kinross continues to profit at the expense of Washington’s citizens and to the detriment of environmental quality on Buckhorn Mountain.

Now, while the Buckhorn Mine is still operating, is the time to issue the penalties for continuing and ongoing violations. Ecology should issue an administrative order requiring Kinross to work with Ecology to develop specific actions realistically designed to bring the mine into permit compliance. This would provide a clear expectation that the company recognize the problems, and demand that they work diligently with Ecology to develop and implement effective on-the-ground solutions. Ecology must send a clear message to the company that the status quo is no longer acceptable. 
When problems develop at mines, they can be very difficult to reverse. The Buckhorn Mine has been discharging contaminants into the waters of Washington State since it began operation. The mining company has failed to implement actions to curb the spread of contamination, but instead has prioritized gold extraction over their commitments to protect the water quality. Ask Ecology to help restructure the priorities at the Buckhorn Mine so that clean water is a primary concern. Abiding by the environmental regulations in Washington State helps to protect our quality of life, a basic component of our state’s economic viability. 

Send your comments to:  

Maia Bellon, Director
email:, (360) 407-7001
WA State Dept. of Ecology, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA 98503-1274

Governor Jay Inslee
360-902-4111; Office of the Governor, PO Box 40002, Olympia, WA 98504-0002