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Breaking News: Sunnyside Challenges Superfund Scope
From Silverton Standard, the place where you can write!
Posted on December 13 2016, 1:13pm by Mark Esper in Local News category


By Mark Esper

Lawyers for Sunnyside Gold Corp. are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to review the EPA’s Sept. 9 decision forming the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site, with company officials accusing the EPA of “failure to follow the law.”

The company is arguing that 27 of the 48 mining-related sites in San Juan County that are included in the listing were not properly vetted, and that the EPA’s Hazard Ranking System was not applied properly. That system is designed to determine if specific sites pose a risk to human health or welfare.

“To be clear, we have no objections to there being a Superfund listing,” said Larry Perino of Silverton, reclamation manager for Sunnyside Gold Corp. “We believe the EPA should follow the law and its own Hazard Ranking System, which was created for the purpose of assessing whether sites should be listed under Superfund.”

He said the Sunnyside petition “is challenging 27 sites and two study areas which were not assessed at all under the EPA’s Hazard Ranking System process, and were thus unlawfully listed.”

Perino sent an e-mail to Mayor Chris Tookey on Dec. 8, informing the town of the company’s filing in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Perino said Sunnyside Gold “does not believe that EPA’s failure to follow the law is conducive to proper prioritization or efficient remediation.”

Perino pointed to EPA documents which seemed to confirm that 19 sites were subject to scoring under the Hazard Ranking System.

The September 2016 HRS report conducted by the EPA lists HRS scoring information on the following 19 mine sites:

Vermillion Mine, Frisco/Bagley Tunnel, Columbus Mine, Tom Moore Mine, Kittimack Mine, Amy Tunnel of Aspen Mine, Grand Mogul, Mogul, Red & Bonita, Gold King, American Tunnel, Natalie/Occidental, Henrietta, Lark Mine, Joe and Johns Mine, Koehler Tunnel, Brooklyn Mine, Paradise Mine, Bandora Mine.

Cynthia Peterson, community involvement coordinator for the EPA, said in an e-mail Tuesday that the petition to have a court review of the final rule adding the Bonita Peak Mining District to the National Priorities List “does not change the status” of the site.

“The project team plans to continue work at the site as planned while the review process proceeds,” Peterson said in an e-mail to town and county officials. “At this time we don’t know how long the review process may take or when a decision may be expected.”

Sunnyside Gold’s petition to the court argues that the EPA did not follow its own rules.

“SGC supports the improvement of water quality and habitats in the Animas River and has no objection to the listing as it relates to sites that have been properly scored in accordance with the law and EPA’s Hazard Ranking System,” Sunnyside Gold’s lawyers stated in the petition for review filed on Dec. 8.

Sunnyside is being represented by the law firm of Crowley Fleck PLLP of Billings, Mont.

“SGC’s challenge is solely related and limited to sites included in the listing without being subjected to EPA’s HRS analysis in accordance with the law,” the petition stated. The court filing added that Sunnyside’s case “will be more fully set forth in SGC’s brief in support of this petition.”

The Sunnyside Mine and the vast Mayflower Mill tailings along the Animas River north of Silverton are included in the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site, but apparently were not subject to the HRS scoring.

The Superfund site was officially designated this fall in the wake of the Aug. 5, 2015 Gold King Mine blowout above Gladstone, which sent a torrent of acidic, metals-laden water down the Animas, triggering emergency responses in four states.

The San Juan County commissioners and Silverton Town Council asked for the listing, in a reversal of long-standing local opposition to Superfund.

Prior to the Superfund designation three months ago, Sunnyside Gold had offered up to $10 million to address acid-mine drainage leaking from the American Tunnel in a collaborative effort.

But company officials consistently warned that if there was a Superfund designation, the firm would use the money for its legal defense instead.



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