Discharge Permit

Buckhorn Mine Monitoring

Discharges at the Buckhorn Mine are regulated by the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) under the U.S. Clean Water Act. The NPDES permit (discharge permit) must be renewed every five years. The first Buckhorn Mine discharge permit went into effect in November 2007 and was administratively extended by the WA Department of Ecology (Ecology) due to complications stemming from significant water quality violations. The discharge permit was renewed in February 2014, clarifying issues from the older permit, and Crown/Kinross appealed it the next day.

In July 2015, the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) denied Crown Resources/Kinross’s appeal of the permit, affirming that the water surrounding the Buckhorn Mine must be left almost as clean as it was before the mine was developed. The PCHB concluded their review by saying, “The conditions in the Modified 2014 Permit requiring the capture and treatment of all Mine-contaminated waters are reasonable provisions that attempt to make certain that the Mine does not leave a legacy of water pollution.”

Crown/Kinross appealed the PCHB decision upholding the 2014 discharge permit, this time in Ferry County Superior Court. In February 2017, Ferry County Superior Court heard and denied the company’s appeal of the 2015 decision, affirming that the PCHB made a well-reasoned decision after weighing the testimony. Crown appealed the Superior Court decision to the WA Court of Appeals. That case has been heard and is awaiting a decision.

Even though mining has stopped, the Buckhorn Mine discharge permit will remain in effect until all discharge of pollutants into the environment has been cleaned up.

The discharge permit is again up for renewal in 2019. (See below for details.)

Permit Needs Enforcement

Water quality at the Buckhorn Mine is regulated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, under the Clean Water Act. The continuous water quality permit violations at the Buckhorn Mine started shortly after mining operations began and have increased to the present day. The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has the responsibility to uphold and enforce the discharge permit. Over the past decade, OHA has regularly suggested corrective actions that would increase understanding of the contaminant flows at the mine site and lead to long-term solutions to the water quality problems. Read More...

2019 Permit Renewal

The Clean Water Act requires that the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit be renewed every five years. The current permit was up for renewal in February 2019, but Ecology has administratively extended it. We can expect that Crown will try to pressure Ecology into making changes in the permit to make it less rigorous. Ecology has said that they do not expect to make substantial changes in the renewal. The 2014 permit appeal is under appeal to the Washington State Court of Appeals. Once the appeal is settled and a permit renewal is considered by Ecology, there will be a public comment period, and it will be important for concerned voices to be heard. Read More...

Buckhorn Mine Library

Recommended Actions for Permit Violations

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Discharge Permit (NPDES) Timeline

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2015 Permit Renewal

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Reclamation and Closure

While the surface of the mine is beginning to heal, closure may take a long time. Water quality poses the greatest challenge in closing the mine.

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Plans

The Buckhorn Mine management plans are needed to provide oversight and remediation of the ongoing water quality issues.

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Water Quality

Contamination from the Buckhorn Mine has been impacting ground and surface water since mining began.

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