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Case Summary: Agreement Secures $25 Million Cleanup for the Rio Tinto Mine in Nevada

On September 27, 2012, EPA, the Department of Justice, and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection announced a $25 million agreement for the cleanup of the Rio Tinto Mine, an abandoned copper mine in Elko County, NV.  Four companies agreed to pay for the environmental project. The state of Nevada will oversee the cleanup with input from EPA and the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley.

The consent decree associated with the cleanup was approved by the United States District Court, District of Nevada on May 20, 2013.

“This project is a great example of federal, state and tribal agencies working side-by-side to reach a cleanup agreement with private parties. The companies will not only clean up mine tailings, but also enhance the habitat for redband trout."Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

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Information about the Companies

The four corporations financing the cleanup, Atlantic Richfield Company, DuPont and Company, The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company and Teck American Inc. are corporate successors to companies that operated the mine from 1932 to 1976. A fifth entity, Mountain City Remediation, has been created by the four defendants to conduct the cleanup.

Information about the Rio Tinto Mine Site

The Rio Tinto site is an abandoned copper mine in northern Elko County, Nev. where decades of mining activities impaired water quality. The site is approximately 2.5 miles south of Mountain City on Mill Creek, a tributary of the East Fork Owyhee River.

Pollutants and Environmental Effects

This agreement will result in the cleanup of mine contamination, protection of Nevada’s Owyhee River, and the restoration of a natural and cultural resource that is invaluable to the Shoshone Paiute people.

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Summary of the Consent Decree

Under the terms of the agreement, the defendants agreed to remove mine tailings from Mill Creek, improve the creek to support the redband trout, and improve water quality in Mill Creek and the East Fork Owyhee River.

The defendants will also pay for the Shoshone Paiute Tribes to monitor the cleanup. The companies are required to provide robust performance guarantees including payments to a trust account they will use to implement the cleanup.

The Nevada Department of Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Protection was named the lead agency in the selection, implementation, and oversight of the cleanup.

Comment Period

The Rio Tinto consent decree, filed with the United States District Court, District of Nevada on September 27, 2012, was subject to a 30-day public comment period and was subsequently approved by the federal court on May 20, 2013.

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Contact Information

For more information contact

Josh Wirtschafter
Assistant Regional Counsel
Region 9
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

Christina Skaar
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460

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