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for people who care about the West

Latest: The EPA drops mine cleanup proposal

Obama-era plan required mining companies to prove they can pay for remediation.


Until the 1970s, hardrock mines were rarely expected to clean up their own messes and often left toxic tailings that polluted streams and groundwater. Western states finally began passing reclamation laws, but most lacked teeth, enabling mine owners to foist cleanup costs onto taxpayers. The Mineral Policy Center estimated reclaiming the nation’s abandoned metals mines would cost $35 billion (“Closing the wounds,HCN, 12/3/01).


In early December, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would not act on a proposal requiring hardrock mining facilities to prove they can pay for cleanup under Superfund. The Obama-era proposal, developed with input from industry, environmental groups and state government, would have required companies to calculate the cost of remediation and then guarantee they could cover it through bonds, insurance or credit. The National Mining Association welcomed the decision, which it said relieved companies from unnecessary financial and regulatory burdens.