U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams listened to lawyers from Atlanta Gold and environmental groups discuss what the Canadian mining company should pay for continuing to violate the Clean Water Act.
Williams ruled in January the gold-mining company is liable for the continuing arsenic and iron pollution of Montezuma Creek. The arsenic comes from an old mining tunnel Atlanta Gold no longer owns.
But Williams ruled Atlanta Gold could not abandon a water treatment plant it built in 2006 to remove arsenic from water flowing from the tunnel into the tributary of the Boise River. The hearing Monday was so the two sides could argue what penalty was appropriate.
If Williams is too hard on Atlanta its attorney said it could stop the exploration company that has been actively seeking to open a mine in the Atlanta area since the 1990s, from ever opening. Since the violation is continuous and the maximum penalty of $37,500 a day has risen above $70 million since 2009, the potential liability is high.
But Advocates for the West, representing the Idaho Conservation League and the Northwest Environmental Council are asking for a fine of $3,694,000 to ensure that Atlanta does not benefit economically from its intransigence.
Williams told the two sides to meet with the Forest Service, which is overseeing the water clean-up under a permit Atlanta got from the agency to explore the area. He wants to see what can be done this year to reduce or filter out the pollution.
Read The Idaho Conservation League’s blog for more details.