A consent agreement between the operator of the Pogo Mine and the Environmental Protection Agency is seen on Tuesday. The mine operator committed to pay $600,000 in fines and conduct cleanup work to settle violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
The operator of the Pogo Mine in Interior Alaska has agreed to pay $600,000 in fines for waste-management violations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday.
Northern Star (Pogo) LLC, a unit of Australia-based Northern Star, committed 81 violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, EPA’s Seattle-based Region 10 office said. The violations, which occurred from 2019 to 2021 at the mine and its associated laboratory, including failure to determine if waste was hazardous; treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste without a permit; improper storage of hazardous waste in underground tanks; and disposal of about 364,450 tons of waste within the gold mine without proper treatment, EPA said.
“Strict accountability for hazardous waste is vital to protecting people and the environment at every step of the way,” said Stacy Murphy, acting enforcement and compliance assurance director, in a statement. “Companies are required to take responsibility for these materials for their entire lifespan and must be held accountable for failing to do so.”
In addition to paying the fines, the company has agreed to remove the tanks and clean up any associated contamination, EPA said.
Though the settlement was announced on Tuesday, it was signed last September.
The Pogo Mine, located near Delta Junction, is one of the nation’s top gold producers. Production totaled about 215,000 ounces in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, according to the company’s 2022 annual report.
Separately, the mine is coping with a mechanical problem that forced a temporary shutdown of production.
Damage to a motor for the mine’s ball mill, a device that grinds materials, was discovered during routine operations last month, the company said in a March 15 statement. Production was halted to allow for repair work, which is expected to take up to six weeks, the company said in its statement. As a result, production is likely to be down by 20,000 to 40,000 ounces in the current fiscal year, though the annual production goals are unchanged, the company said.
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