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Buckhorn review begins

— The review process for a Buckhorn Mountain Mine wastewater discharge permit renewal is under way.

The draft renewal for the permit is available for review and comment from the state Department of Ecology.

Crown Resources, a subsidiary of Kinross Gold Corp., operates the gold mine near Chesaw under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System water quality permit. The permit acts in accordance with provisions of the state’s Clean Water Act and the state’s Metals, Mining and Milling Act, the state said.

As part of the five-year renewal, the mining company will have a year of interim pollution discharge limits to come into compliance with the more rigorous standards, Ecology spokeswoman Joye Redfield-Wilder said. The new permit will be more protective of water quality and the environment.

Under the permit, the mine must address failures to capture and contain contaminants from the mine that resulted in a penalty in 2012.

The state fined the company $395,000 for water quality violations in 2011 and 2012. The mine’s groundwater capture zone failed to contain spring rains and snow melt, resulting in contaminated water reaching Gold Bowl Creek.

In 2011, the mine discharged treated mine water in a way that resulted in a landslide and debris flow that damaged the creek. The slide damaged a large portion of the creek’s stream channel.

Ecology estimated it will take years to stabilize and re-establish damaged soils and vegetation along the slope and along Gold Bowl Creek. Sediment is expected in the creek for years.

The draft permit also authorizes new outfalls where the mine is allowed to discharge treated mine water from its wastewater treatment plant back to the environment.

Treated mine water would be allowed to go into Gold Bowl, Nicholson and Marias creeks. The permit would allow the discharge of untreated non-industrial storm water to the ground, in compliance with Ecology’s water quality standards.

Ecology will make a final determination on the permit after it receives and evaluates comments. The draft permit and fact sheet are available on the agency’s website.

The deadline for comments is Oct. 21. They should be sent to Cindy Huwe, Department of Ecology, Central Regional Office, 15 W. Yakima Ave., Suite 200; Yakima 98902, or emailed to cynthia.huwe@ecy.wa.gov.

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