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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Confirmation of buried barrels of waste at Asarco’s Troy mine comes to the surface

Digging deep

Confirmation of buried barrels of waste at Asarco’s Troy mine comes to the surface

Written by MICHAEL MOORE and MICHAEL JAMISON Photographed by MICHAEL GALLACHER of the Missoulian

TROY – For more than half a year, attorneys for the companies involved in the Troy mine’s past and future have denied an environmental group’s claim that barrels of waste are buried in the mine’s tailings impoundment.

The mining attorneys asked a federal judge in Missoula to dismiss that claim, made in December 2002 in a lawsuit brought by the Cabinet Resource Group, at the most fundamental level – they simply said it never happened.

“Neither the state nor any of the defendants are aware of, nor can they find any evidence of, any such violations,” attorneys for Asarco and the Sterling Mining Co. of Montana wrote in a March brief seeking dismissal of the case.

Then a strange thing happened. Tim Bechtold, one of CRG’s attorneys, filed a notice alerting the company attorneys that he planned to depose Lee McKinney, a former mill manager at the Troy mine.

On Oct. 14, Bechtold had a telephone call from Asarco attorney John Davis, who said the company would now admit that at least some waste had been “deposited” in the 400-acre impoundment, which stores waste rock from the mining process:

“On the basis of information obtained from a former employee of Defendant ASARCO, Mr. Lee McKinney, Defendant ASARCO admits that a quantity of barrels containing flocculant and absorbent material were deposited into the tailings impoundment at the Troy mine in approximately 1988,”

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