March 26, 2022

Four projects to receive money from Gold King Mine settlement

USEPA

Entrance to the Gold King Mine. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency

The New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee released a final restoration plan for the Animas and San Juan rivers on Thursday. This restoration plan is intended to improve water quality and economic opportunities following the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. 

The office selected four projects for funding:

  • Construction of a boat ramp on the Animas River in the Cedar Hill area located just south of the state line
  • Construction of a festival and farmer’s market pavilion at Gateway Park in Farmington
  • Implementation of the San Juan Valley Soil Health Restoration Project
  • Upgrading the agricultural irrigation system in the Tse Daa Kaan, or Hogback, community

The projects will be funded by a $1 million settlement. This settlement was with the Sunnyside Gold Corporation and its parent companies. While Sunnyside does not own Gold King Mine, the lawsuit alleged that the company’s actions created underlying conditions that made the blowout possible.

The Gold King Mine is located near Silverton, Colorado. In August 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its contractors triggered a blowout at a bulkhead that led to three million gallons of water from inside the mine, which included hazardous, heavy metals, to flow into Cement Creek and from Cement Creek into the Animas River. The plume of mustard yellow water entered New Mexico a few days later, where it joined the San Juan River in western Farmington before flowing downstream into Navajo Nation and eventually ending up in Lake Powell.

The spill also impacted the economy in San Juan County by cutting off water for agricultural and recreation uses.

“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,” said Natural Resources Trustee Maggie Hart Stebbins in a press release. “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.”