While many Silver Valley residents are eager to see the Bunker Hill reopen, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is wary of restarting a historic polluter in the nation’s second-largest Superfund site even under modern environmental laws designed to protect air and water quality.
KELLOGG, Idaho (AP) — For nearly a century, the Bunker Hill Mine in Kellogg was the source of tremendous wealth.
The massive underground mine produced lead for bullets fired in two world wars and zinc for rust-proofing steel. Paychecks from the Bunker supported generations of Idaho workers and their families, and the profits enriched shareholders far beyond the Silver Valley.
These days, however, the closed mine costs U.S. taxpayers about $1 million annually. Polluted water gushes out of the Bunker Hill’s portal at a rate of 1,300 gallons per minute, traveling by ditch to a treatment plant run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal government spends about $80,000 each month to remove toxic levels of heavy metals from the water.
In March, the Trump administration announced a deal that would allow the Bunker Hill Mine to reopen under new management, ending 14 years of Superfund litigation. Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator at the time, lauded the settlement as a path to creating about 300 jobs while generating cash to pay back part of the $24 million the federal government has spent on water treatment.
But the Bunker Hill Mining Corp. the Canadian company trying to restart the mine quickly ran into financial troubles. Prices for base metals slid over the summer, reducing investor interest in the $100 million project. In addition, the company’s ties to Robert “Bobby” Genovese, a penny stock promoter who’s facing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges for alleged stock manipulation, have raised questions.
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