What are now world-class ski runs used to be profitable mountainsides where 19th-century miners dug silver out of the dirt and mud.
The materials left over from that mining and processing are called tailings, and a lot of them were dumped into Silver Creek — the stream that runs from the south side of Park City northeast to Wanship. The federal government has had plans to clean up the tailings and the poisonous chemicals that come with them.
The plan has stalled, partly because United Park City Mines Co. hasn’t followed through on a 2014 agreement to scrub the biggest tailings site and owes the federal government for work that has been done, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court. The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a judge to order the mine company to pay what it owes and declare the company liable for future cleanup costs.
A lawyer for United Park City Mines, Chris Hogle, said he was still reading the lawsuit and declined comment Tuesday. The lawsuit also describes the level of pollution still sitting around Utah’s top ski town from a century of silver mining, the last of which ended in 1982.
The complaint says the mine company owes about $900,000 to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management — with interest accumulating — for efforts to clean up the tailings site. The lawsuit warns that even if the mine company pays what it owes, the cleanup tab is probably going to continue to rise.
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