Agnico Eagle Mines, a mining firm based in Toronto, Canada, has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources to begin remediation work at the closed Gilt Edge Mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The former gold mine is one of two EPA Superfund sites in South Dakota.
The public-private partnership is a first of its kind in South Dakota and could provide a model for future agreements to clean up other Superfund sites.
South Dakota News Watch reported that Agnico Eagle Mines will drill as many as 18 holes at the defunct gold mine over the next two years to help the state and federal government understand the source of cadmium that is polluting water at the site south of Lead-Deadwood.
The project contains a possible profit motive for Agnico. After providing data from the drilling to the EPA and DENR, Agnico will analyze the drilled materials to check for the presence of gold in profitable amounts.
If the company finds good gold, it could later apply to mine the site. So far, Agnico has not begun the long process of applying for a mine permit, and no mining is allowed under the agreement signed this spring by all three parties involved.
State and federal regulators, as well as officials from Agnico, see the agreement as a win-win situation, with a private firm reducing government clean-up costs while also creating the potential for a return to profitability of the Gilt Edge Mine.
In July 2017, the federal government released recommendations of the Superfund Task Force created by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that included a major goal labeled “Encouraging Private Investment” and a recommendation that the government “optimize tools and realign incentives” to push for more third-party investment as a way to speed remediation and reduce government costs.
“EPA recognizes that it should support, where appropriate, innovative approaches to promote third-party investment in cleanup and reuse of contaminated properties consistent with statutory authorities and needs to consider mitigating its retained rights,” the report said.