EPA gives Nevada deadline for Anaconda Mine site cleanup plans

February 11, 2016

The Anaconda Copper Mine site near Yerington, NV could be designated as a national priotity site for Superfund cleanup if the state of Nevada does not find a “comprehensive solution” to clean the site.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to formally respond by March 29 to a proposed Superfund listing to allow for the cleanup of the site.

In a letter dated Feb. 8, Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the EPA, said major work on the mine cleanup must begin by the summer of 2019 to avoid the failure of the site’s existing heap leach fluid containment systems.

“I appreciate your goal of identifying private sources of capital to fund the $32 million-$40 million cleanup,” Blumenfeld said. “However, if a comprehensive solution is not forthcoming from private entities, I am convinced (the Superfund) designation is the only viable option for continued federal support.”

Blumenfeld said he would like to personally meet with Mason Valley farmers and agricultural interests in early March to hear how the EPA can reduce any impacts from a Superfund listing on their businesses.

Sandoval, in response, issued this statement on Feb. 10: “I am encouraged that the EPA will remain involved in the discussion related to the Anaconda Site and the administrator has agreed to hear directly from the local stakeholders and leaders of the affected community.

“The fact that the EPA has consented to at least 60 days for Nevada’s additional review indicates to me that the agency agrees we have time to get this right, without immediate risks to public health as some have alleged,” Sandoval said.

A Superfund listing will not guarantee funding for cleanup since the program has not been fully funded since 1995, he said.

“I remain committed to working together toward achieving our shared goal of fully funding a comprehensive cleanup in a timely manner,” Sandoval said.

The EPA already considers the mine a Superfund site, but adding it to the national priority list is required to tap federal funding for cleanup.

Anaconda Copper purchased the Lyon County mine in the early 1940s. It was bought in the 1970s by Atlantic Richfield Co., now a subsidiary of BP. Those operations ceased in 1982.

The site covering about 3,400 acres near Yerington, a rural farming community 65 miles southeast of Reno, was sold a few more times and was last owned by Arimetco, which went bankrupt in 1997 and abandoned the site in 2000, EPA documents show.

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