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Settlement Resolves One of the Largest Superfund Cases Ever Filed

Date Posted: June 13, 2011

A settlement has been reached with Hecla Mining Company to resolve one of the largest cases ever filed under the Superfund statute.  Under the settlement, Hecla will pay $263.4 million plus interest to the United States, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the state of Idaho to resolve claims stemming from releases of wastes from its mining operations.  Settlement funds will be dedicated to restoration and remediation of natural resources in the Coeur d’Alene Basin. The agreement, which was lodged in federal district court in Idaho today, brings closure to that lawsuit and establishes a strong basis for future cooperation between Hecla and the governments in the Coeur d’Alene Basin.

1993 Photo of the Bunker HIll Superfund Site in the Coeur d'Alene Basin. The majority of the settlement funds will be dedicated to restoration and remediation at Bunker Hill. Photo credit: USFWS/Dan AudetThe lawsuit was originally brought against Hecla and other mining companies by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in 1991. The United States and the state of Idaho later joined the lawsuit.  The lawsuit sought damages for injuries to natural resources such as clean water, fish and birds caused by millions of tons of mining wastes that had been released into the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and its tributaries.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Idaho have been performing cleanup work in the Coeur d’Alene Basin since the early 1980s, and the suit also sought to recover cleanup costs.
    
The Bunker Hill Superfund site is one of the nation’s largest and most contaminated Superfund sites.  At one time, the Upper Basin, or Silver Valley, was one of the largest silver producing districts in the world.  As a result, the basin has been contaminated by the release of metals like lead and arsenic, which are widespread.  EPA began cleanup at the site in the 1980s, focusing on protecting human health.  Although measurable improvements in public and environmental health have been achieved, widespread contamination remains a challenge and cleanup work will continue for many years.
  
“This settlement provides substantial funding that the trustees will use to restore habitat for fish, birds and other natural resources that have been injured for many decades by mining wastes,” said Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at the U.S. Department of Interior.

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Read the entire Fish and Wildlife Service press release

The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.  A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

Last updated: February 13, 2013