Mines must clean up their mess
Last year, the state of Arizona took action, suing the local mining operations for violations of the federal Clean Water Act and state environmental laws. In mid-August, the state reached a final settlement with the Pinal Creek Group, composed of Cyprus Miami Mining Corporation, BHP Copper Inc., and Inspiration Consolidated Copper Company.
The companies are required to clean up existing contamination near the small mining towns of Globe and Miami - a job estimated at $100 million - and pay $600,000 in penalties to the state. The group will also build a water treatment plant in the area, a measure designed to keep the contaminated plume from moving into Pinal Creek and heading toward the Salt River.
The cleanup settlement focuses on "historic contamination" rather than current mining practices, says Mitchell Klein from the state attorney general's office, since ongoing operations near Globe and Miami are regulated separately.
The three companies involved are now suing each other and the federal government, trying to recover the costs of the cleanup. But Klein isn't worried. "They are paying (the state) back for every dime we have spent on this, and they can beat each others' brains out for all we care," he says. "We are a desert here, and we need our water supply."