Alaska Miners to Pay $883,628 to Resolve Environmental Violations

Alaska Gold Co. and NovaGold Resources Inc., the owners and operators of the Rock Creek Mine near Nome, Alaska, have agreed to pay a $883,628 civil penalty to resolve violations of a stormwater discharge permit. According to the court documents, in 2006, Alaska Gold, an Alaskan corporation and its parent company, NovaGold, a Canadian corporation, applied for and received a permit for the construction of a mine near Nome. Construction began in October 2006.

Subsequently, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, from April 2007 until September 2008, Alaska Gold and NovaGold violated their permit on multiple occasions by discharging stormwater into Rock Creek, Lindblom Creek, and Glacier Creek in violation of state water quality standards. The companies also failed to adequately prepare and update a stormwater pollution prevention plan and failed to implement and maintain best management practices to control the discharges, DOJ said.

"Today's settlement shows that the government will hold accountable any company that does not fully comply with stormwater requirements," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division, on May 12. "We expect all companies to take the necessary steps to control stormwater discharge from their operations."

Michelle Pirzadeh, EPA's Acting Regional Administrator in Seattle, added, "Whether it's in a far corner of Alaska or in a crowded urban area, stormwater rules protect our waterways from polluted runoff. The construction at Rock Creek Mine resulted in virtually unchecked runoff of silt and sediment to important fish habitat. Companies taking on construction projects of this scale need to do so responsibly and in accordance with the law."

As of fall 2008, the mine was in compliance. EPA will be monitoring the site for future violations beginning in spring 2009.

The stipulation of settlement and judgment, lodged May 12 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in Anchorage, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy is available on the DOJ Web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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