"December 10, 2009
Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1-203
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that an environmental damage settlement with ASARCO LLC, a North American mining conglomerate, would provide about $194 million for the recovery of wildlife, habitat and other natural resources managed by Interior, state and tribal governments at more than a dozen sites.
“Through this historic settlement, the American public is compensated for the damage and loss of natural resources resulting from ASARCO’s past mining, smelting and refining operations,” Secretary Salazar said. “Were it not for this agreement, these injured resources would either remain impaired for future generations or require taxpayer expenditures to achieve environmental restoration.”
“This is a milestone not only for the Federal Government but also for Interior and its Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program,” Salazar said. “It exemplifies government working effectively for the American taxpayer to recover damages from polluters and restore and protect significant national landscapes and wildlife resources that have been injured.”
Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland called the settlement the type of environmental enforcement action that ensures that those responsible for polluting the nation’s landscapes and waterways are made to pay for their actions. “I want to commend the extraordinary level and amount of federal, state and tribal cooperation and coordination that accomplished this settlement,” Strickland said.
He also thanked representatives on the case teams that developed the claims, including Interior personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, other federal agencies and state and tribal governments for their professionalism and dedication. “The settlement demonstrates the ability of Interior’s bureaus and offices to work cooperatively and productively on behalf of the public – and especially the taxpayers – to achieve major benefits for the environment.”
The Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District spans multiple counties from 40 to 90 miles south southwest of St. Louis, Missouri and is located in the Big River/Meramec River, Black River, and St Francois River watersheds. It is one of the largest lead producing regions of the world. Natural resources affected by mining-related contamination include surface water, groundwater, fish, migratory birds, endangered species of fresh-water mussels and their supporting ecosystems, including sediment and floodplain areas. Lead mining continues in the New Lead Belt, also called the Viburnum Trend, and the region continues to be the nation’s top lead producer.
Heavy-metal mine, mill, and smelter wastes from Asarco’s operations covers thousands of acres of land in St. Francois, Madison, Iron, and Reynolds counties. Two National Priority List Superfund sites and an active mining and processing district are contained within the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District affected by Asarco. Runoff from these operations has contributed to contamination of sediment in over 100 miles of streams including Flat River Creek, Big River, Adair Creek, Logan Creek, Sweetwater Creek, West Fork of the Black River, Logtown Branch, Little St. Francois River, and Big Creek. Interior and the State of Missouri jointly received $41.2 million for natural resource damages at five sites in the District. Interior received approximately $274,000 to reimburse past assessment costs.
The Tri-State Mining District spans 2,500 square miles, including parts of southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri and northeast Oklahoma. The District is located in the Spring River and Neosho River watersheds, both of which flow generally south, terminating in the headwaters of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokee. Natural resources affected by mining-related contamination include surface water, fish, migratory birds, freshwater mussels and threatened and endangered species and their supporting habitat, such as sediments. Interior, the states of Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma and six American Indian tribes jointly received $62.4 million for natural resource damages in the District. Interior received $2.3 million to reimburse past assessment costs.
Trustees for natural resources affected by mining operations in the Tri-State Mining District include two Interior Department bureaus - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the states of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, and several tribes: Cherokee Nation; Eastern Shawnee Tribe; Ottawa Tribe; Peoria Tribe; Seneca-Cayuga Tribe; and Wyandotte Nation. The Trustees for each site have completed or are now drafting plans to restore injured natural resources.
In Missouri, ASARCO conducted operations in Jasper and Newton counties. Mining and milling operations generated about 150 million short tons of waste scattered over 7,500 acres in Jasper County, affecting waterways such as Center Creek, Turkey Creek, Short Creek and their tributaries. Similar conditions occurred in Newton County, affecting Shoal Creek and its tributaries, and Lost, Sycamore, and upper Center creeks. The Interior Department and the State of Missouri will receive $20.1 million for Jasper and Newton counties. The Trustees for these sites are developing a draft restoration plan and anticipate releasing the draft for public review and comment in spring 2010.
The Tri-State Mining area is a mix of tallgrass prairie and hardwood forests. Commercial mining began in about 1848 in Missouri and moved westward into Kansas and southward into Oklahoma. Commercial smelters occurred in all three states within Tri-State. Historically, lead was the ore of primary interest; however, the ore was rich in zinc deposits, and zinc production became increasingly important over time. The Jasper County site was designated a Superfund site in 1990; the Newton County site was added in 2003.
Funds will be deposited into Interior’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment and
Restoration Fund and will be used to restore, rehabilitate, replace, and/or acquire the
equivalent of the injured natural resources managed by Interior and jointly managed with
state and tribal agencies. The majority of this amount is a joint claim with federal, state,
and tribal co-trustees, depending on the site.
For more information on the ASARCO settlement in Missouri, visit www.fws.gov/midwest/nrda/index.html