Cleanup at Superfund mine site could last for decades

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota official said an agreement for Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. to investigate historic sources of contamination at a Superfund site in the Black Hills could benefit South Dakota taxpayers.

Agnico, based in Toronto, Canada, reached a deal in 2018 with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state of South Dakota to inspect areas of the Gilt Edge mine.

Brohm walked away from the 360-acre site in 2000 because rocks were generating acidic water that flowed into Strawberry Creek. The mine is about six miles east of Lead in Lawrence County.

Agnico is exploring for cadmium during its inspection work, according to Roberta Hudson, who works for the state Office of Minerals and Mining.

She provided an update Wednesday to the state panel responsible for regulating the mine.

Hudson told the state Board of Minerals and Environment that HydroGeoLogic, a company from Reston, Virginia, is the on-site operator for remediation work.

Asked for a date when the work might finish, Hudson replied, “I wish I could give you one.” She said it could take another 20 years.

CDM Smith, whose world headquarters is in Boston, Massachusetts, is designing the remediation plan, while Tetra Tech, from Pasadena, California, is doing the actual work on the ground, Hudson said.

The project cost the federal government more than $19 million combined in 2017 and 2018. 

The hope is Agnico finds economically-minable quantiies of cadmium and pursues them.

“They are still drilling right now,” she said.

The company will look at surface sources of contamination along Strawberry Creek this year, according to Hudson.

Board member John Scheetz of Spearfish said he was concerned about post-cleanup. He is environmental manager at the Sanford Underground Research Facility that operates in the old Homestake Mine at Lead.

“Water maintenance is everything there,” Scheetz told Hudson “I just want to make sure we’re not setting ourselves for more problems.”

Hudson said the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which includes the office for which she works, has been monitoring water quality and water levels.

She said the Sunday Pit is dry and the Dakota Maid Pit has returned to same level where it previously was. Observation pits have been added that allow levels to be checked.

“Eventually the goal is to put an impermeable 60-mil cap over all those facilities,” she said. “Our goal is to minimize that need as we get closer to the end game.”

Scheetz said the key is minimizing the operation and maintenance costs to the state government after remediation has been completed.

“That’s the cost,” Scheetz said.

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