Monitoring the Buckhorn Mine

Timeline


2008

April

OHA and Crown agree to settle Federal and State appeals

April

Crown seeks exploration permit

October

OHA discovers erosion below 002 discharge pipe

November

OHA meets with Crown and agencies for first unofficial review of monitoring

2009

March

First Annual Meeting; OHA expresses grave concerns

April

Crown fined $40,000 for water quality violation; failure to maintain a capture zone around the mine

April

Forest Service issues exploration EA

June

Forest Service approves exploration

July

Mine water quality problems persist, Breakpoint Chlorination system fails and is abandoned

July

Multiple Violations issued by Ecology

August

OHA provides Comprehensive Matrix of Reporting Requirements to agencies and Crown

September

Temporary reverse osmosis treatment installed

2010

March

Second annual meeting with OHA, Crown, & agencies

March

Company stores up to 7.9 million gallons of water in mine-shafts, and trucks waste water at a rate of over a million gallons per month to the tailings pond near Republic, WA, with no environmental review or mitigation to compensate for the loss of water from the basin

March

Crown submits Notice of Intent for extensive exploration program

June

Ecology water quality official retires with no replacement

June

Gold Bowl water quality triggers adaptive management

June

Landslide approximately 25×125 feet, caused by discharge of treated mine water, fells large trees and a significant amount of soil into the headwaters of South Nicholson Creek

September

Kinross investigation reveals that the company failed to report significant discharges from the treatment facility that exceeded water quality standards between May and August 2009, and that efforts were taken to make the compliance monitoring data appear better than they actually were

November

Scoping begins for proposed Buckhorn Exploration Project

2011

January

Company installs new reverse osmosis equipment that doubles the treatment capacity to 200 gpm

January

OHA recommends use of shotcrete to seal all PAG headings (required but not yet implemented), lining of all mine sumps, and additional investigation of hydrologic pathways and faults

January

Ecology hires qualified staff to replace previous hydrogeologist overseeing the mine’s water quality permits, after a gap of 7 months

March

Mine consultant confirms gaps in the capture zone at annual meeting

April

Company stores over 16 million gallons of water underground in mine shafts and mine is flooded. Places to discharge treated water are severely limited.

May

Large slope failure, just below the mine facilities and one of the treated mine water discharge areas, sends mud cascading thousands of feet, uprooting large trees and scouring the Gold Bowl creek drainage of all vegetation

May

Mine violates water quality permit: Water quality in Gold Bowl Creek exceeds standards for nitrates from blasting and sulfates from acid generating rocks; mine-related contaminants continue to increase in Bolster Creek and in Wells East of the mine.

June

Back pressure in the Mine Water line causes flooding of the chlorination building via the floor drain, releasing an estimated maximum of 15,300 gallons into the ground and surface water

2012

February

OHA issues Action Alert, encouraging public to push for consequences for permit violations

March

OHA participates in annual mine coordination meeting; presents concerns and recommendations

July

Ecology enforces the Clean Water Act, issuing $395,000 in fines for some of the water quality violations

July

Mining company appeals the enforcement

July

Mining company withdraws Cost Recovery Agreement that would have helped cover Ecology’s expenses for mine-related administration

October

NPDES 5 year permit expires; administrative extension is issued

2013

January

Crown submits Shotcrete and Grouting Plan (almost one year after Ecology’s request); Ecology deems that it does not meet mine’s management requirements

February

Another administrative extension is issued for NPDES permit

March

OHA participates in annual mine coordination meeting; presents concerns and recommendations

June

OHA announces that a citizen lawsuit in Federal District Court may be filed, charging the companies with violations of their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and the Clean Water Act (CWA), unless all violations are stopped.

June

Ecology settles with the company, reducing fine from $395,000 to $80,000 plus $180,000 of undetermined mitigation

August

OHA receives final installment of data from company and develops 3D visualization of Buckhorn Mine, as a tool to increase understanding of groundwater flow paths

September

Draft NPDES issued, public comment period open

2014

March

Ecology issues new NPDES permit with more stringent protection of water quality

March

Kinross appeals new NPDES permit

July

Crown/Kinross submitted its required updated Adaptive Management Plan and Hydrologic Monitoring Plan.

2015

March

Ecology sends written comments to Crown Resources regarding their proposed revisions to the Buckhorn Mine Adaptive Management Plan for Water Quality.

July

Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) denies 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.

November

Kinross submitted its Environmental Protection Performance Security Plan (EPPS) plan to Ecology, which purported to detail the amount of money required to satisfy the company’s environmental mitigation and cleanup requirements on Buckhorn Mountain. OHA and its consultants found serious underestimates for their obligations.

December

The mining and industrial water rights for the Buckhorn Mountain Mine expired. Crown Resources continued to operate the mine without a valid water right for mining use.

2016

July

Ecology issued Administrative Order #13638, which required the mining company to document the fate and transport of contaminants from the mine, evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation measures taken, and develop a plan to remediate the problem.

August

Ecology held a scoping meeting required by the Buckhorn Mine discharge permit for its reclamation and closure, but no plans emerged.

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