Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cleaning Up the Mess

Some good news as the Christian holiday approaches: the American Smelting and Refining Company, ASARCO, agreed to a settlement of its pollution liabilities in nineteen states it was announced on December 10th by federal officials. Grupo Mexico, the parent company, is providing $1.79 billion for the bankrupt concern as payment to clean up 80 superfund sites created by the company's mining operations. ASARCO was a venerable name in the mining business, operating for 110 years as a vertically integrated holding company and then as an Arizona based copper mining and refining company. It filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on August 9, 2005. Grupo Mexico purchased the company in bankruptcy proceedings. Two of the more significant superfund sites affected by the settlement are the Tar Creek site in Ottawa County, Oklahoma and the Bunker Hill site in the Coeur d'Alene basin of northern Idaho. The Tar Creek site is highly contaminated by mine tailings deposited in mounds and retention ponds near residential communities and developed areas. Some of the piles are 200 feet high [photo] and contain lead, cadmium and zinc. The Bunker Hill site is on public land used by wildlife and migratory birds as habitat. Land, ground water and surface waters have been contaminated by mining operations. Caring for our planet by restoring damaged land is what Jesus would do.

[photo: courtesy EPA]