Shoshone Paiute Tribes to Co-Monitor $25 Million Rio Tinto Copper Mine Cleanup

Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley Indian Reservation will be co-monitors, along with the state of Nevada, under a $25 million agreement reached by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state with four companies to clean up the superfund site that is the abandoned Rio Tinto Copper Mine.

Nevada’s abandoned Rio Tinto Copper Mine, a Superfund site, will be cleaned up with $25 million from four companies under an agreement worked out by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the government entities announced on September 27.

The Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley will help oversee the cleanup, which entails removing mine tailings from Mill Creek, making the creek habitable for the redband trout and improving the water quality of Mill Creek and the East Fork Owyhee River. The tribes’ monitoring costs will be paid by the four companies funding the cleanup, the DOJ said in a statement.

The state of Nevada will also oversee the cleanup, which will be paid for by the Atlantic Richfield Company, DuPont and Co., the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. and Teck American Inc., all corporate successors to companies that operated the copper mine between 1932 and 1976, the DOJ said. Cleanup will be conducted by a newly created entity, Mountain City Remediation, the statement said.

Shoshone and Paiute officials welcomed the resolution of the longstanding issue and the potential to preserve cultural heritage.

“To the Shoshone Paiute people, the redband trout is not merely a species to be considered; it is a cultural resource. And the habitat for the trout must be protected as well,” said Tribal Chairman Terry Gibson in the statement. “The cleanup effort at the Rio Tinto Mine is very encouraging, and is an essential step to restoring and protecting these cultural resources, not only for today, but for generations to come.”

The plan will be outlined in a consent decree of the formal settlement under the federal Superfund law and be posted in the Federal Register, where it will be available for public comment 30 days, the DOJ said.