Now there is only one document you need to read to get most of the story about the Midnite Mine in Washington State. You may have heard of the Dawn Mining Company, uranium production in Washington, the role of the Spokane Indians in mining, and the seemingly interminable controversy about how to close the mine. I have followed the story on and off for years. Now the Midnite Mine Superfund Site, Spokane Indian Reservation, Washington, Record of Decision has been issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is available on line. If your interests run to the very difficult issues involved in mine reclamation, the legal process in the United States, uranium mine and mill closure, and aboriginal relations, this document is a “must-read case history”.

At nearly 250 pages long, I cannot begin to summarize the wealth of detail in this ROD. Suffice it to note here that the selected remedy includes:

  • Containment of mine waste in pits.
  • Water collection and treatment.
  • Residuals management.
  • Surface water sediment management.
  • Monitored natural attenuation of groundwater.
  • Institutional controls and access restriction.
  • Long-term site management.
  • Contingent action planning.

A sad part of the story that is told in this somewhat edited quote:

  • “In 1991, Dawn submitted a reclamation plan. This plan was not accepted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
  • In 1996, Dawn produced a revised reclamation plan. BLM considered the revised plan sufficient for inclusion as one of the several reclamation options to be evaluated under NEPA following additional site studies.
  • In 1998, negotiations involving the Department of the Interior (DOI), EPA, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) led to an interim agreement between DOJ, DOI, EPA, Dawn, and Newmont.
  • Dawn and Newmont fulfilled the terms of the Interim Agreement [by conducting] field work in 1999 and 2000, followed by reporting in 2000 and 2001.
  • Negotiations with Dawn in 1999 to conduct a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) were unsuccessful, leading to an RI/FS conducted and funded by EPA.
  • EPA performed the RI/FS from 1999 to 2006.

In 2005, the United States filed a claim against Newmont and Dawn Mining for response cost incurred at the Site.”