ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee (ONRT) announced Friday that it has finalized a plan to fund four projects with $1 million recovered from Sunnyside Gold Corporation, Kinross Gold
Corporation, and Kinross Gold U.S.A., Inc. (together, the “Kinross Entities”) for injuries to natural resources and services in New Mexico resulting from the August 2015 Gold King Mine blowout.
Selected projects include:
- Construction of the Cedar Hill Boat Ramp on the Animas River proposed by San Juan County
- Construction of the Festival and Farmer’s Market Pavilion at Gateway Park proposed by the City of Farmington;
- Implementation of the San Juan Valley Soil Health Restoration Project proposed by the San Juan County Soil and Water Conservation District; and
- Implementation of the Agricultural Irrigation System Upgrade Project proposed by the Tse Daa Kaan (Hogback) Navajo Community. Funding for the Hogback irrigation upgrade is contingent on additional resources to complete the project.
In August 2015, a blowout at the Gold King Mine in Colorado released more than three million gallons of acid mine drainage and 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into the Animas and San Juan watersheds. The plume of contaminated water adversely affected New Mexico residents, agricultural and recreational tourism industries, and natural resources along those rivers.
In January 2021, the State of New Mexico and the Kinross Entities reached an $11 million settlement for costs and damages incurred by New Mexico, including a payment of $1 million to ONRT to implement restoration projects to compensate for public losses. Litigation against other parties involved in the Blowout, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s contractors at the Gold King Mine, is ongoing.
To begin the restoration planning process, ONRT published a press release and sent a letter to local stakeholders July 15, 2021, to solicit project proposals. ONRT evaluated all proposed restoration projects and Jan. 31, 2022, published the Draft Restoration Plan for the Gold King Mine Release into the Animas and San Juan Rivers, San Juan County, NM (Restoration Plan), which includes a description of the proposed projects and results of ONRT’s evaluation. The public comment period closed March 2, 2022, and ONRT considered all comments received before finalizing the Restoration Plan.
“ONRT is grateful to the individuals and organizations who submitted feedback on the Draft Restoration Plan and we have responded to those comments in the final version,” Natural Resources Trustee Maggie Hart Stebbins said. “We are excited to partner with the local governments and organizations that will implement these projects and eager to begin the process of making whole communities that were so negatively affected by the Gold King Mine release,”
The Final Restoration Plan and other Gold King Mine documents are available on ONRT’s website at https://onrt.env.nm.gov/gold-king-mine-documents/ or may be requested from the New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee, 121 Tijeras NE, Suite 1000, Albuquerque, NM 87102, 505.313.837.
For more information on New Mexico’s settlement with the mining defendants, Sunnyside Corporation and its parent companies, Kinross Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold, U.S.A., Inc., visit https://onrt.env.nm.gov/gold-king-mine-and-bonita-peak-mining-district/ or https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2021-01-13-State-reaches-11-million-settlement-over-Gold-King-Mine-disaster.pdf.
About the Office of Natural Resources Trustee (ONRT)
ONRT is a state agency created by statute to ensure that New Mexico’s natural resources that have been injured by the release of hazardous substances are restored for the full benefit of New Mexicans. ONRT assesses injury to natural resources caused by contamination and then seeks compensation from the responsible parties for restoration of those injured resources. The funds obtained through settlements are used to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of injured, destroyed or lost natural resources and the services they provide. For more information about ONRT, visit www.onrt.state.nm.us.