January 6, 2011 |

Coeur to pay $170K fine for Kensington pollution

By Jonathan Grass

Juneau Empire

Coeur Alaska will pay a $170,000 penalty to the Environmental Protection Agency to resolve Clean Water Act violations over unpermitted discharges at the Kensington Mine.

EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said the settlement was finalized Wednesday after long-standing negotiations.

The consent agreement and final order alleges there was unpermitted acid rock drainage (ARD) into Lower Slate Lake during construction between 2006 and 2010. It alleges the discharges entered the lake at times from a collection pond next to a lake known as the "Big Hole."

A press release states the acid rock drainage contained high concentrations of metals that were making their way into Slate Creek.

Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Regional Office of Compliance and Enforcement, said in the release, "The metals discharging from the Kensington project posed a threat to the downstream environment. In this case, Coeur not only failed to comply with the Clean Water Act, but potentially harmed East Fork Slate Creek by allowing unpermitted discharges, including acid rock drainage, to leave the mine property and enter the creek. The result: Coeur will pay a $170,000 penalty."

Tony Ebersole, Coeur’s director of corporate communications, said the alleged violations relate to discharges of sediment and acidic water during construction into the tailings facility. In an e-mailed response, he said, "Although the Company doesn’t believe a fine (of $170,000) was warranted, we believed this was the best way to bring closure to EPA’s concerns."

"We’re pleased this settlement has been reached and we remain committed to protecting Alaska’s water quality in partnership with the state," MacIntyre said.

The Kensington Mine has paid for Clean Water Act enforcements before. The release states Coeur paid $18,334 in December 2006 to resolve construction storm water violations and the company agreed to perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) by providing $90,000 towards the acquisition of a nearby wetlands conservation easement.

Ebersole said no SEP was contemplated in the current settlement.

Ebersole said the construction periods had long delays due to these negotiations, but Kensington is now in production and is expected to produce 125,000 ounces of gold annually. He said there was no impact on the start up or first production.