LUDLOW, S.D. (AP) — A portion of a multibillion settlement between the federal government and a petroleum company will finance the cleanup of an abandoned uranium mine in northwest South Dakota.
About $179 million will be used to rid the abandoned Riley Pass uranium mine of toxic metals and other elements, the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/1m3kJuP ) reported Sunday. The site sprawls across 250 acres of bluffs and other land in the North Cave Hills.
The U.S. Department of Justice in April announced that it had reached a $5.15 billion settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for the cleanup of thousands of long-contaminated sites nationwide. The settlement, which resolves a legal battle over Tronox Inc., is the largest ever for environmental contamination.
Riley Pass in Harding County was one of hundreds of sites mined to fuel nuclear weapons and reactors.
"Back in the Cold War era, there was almost sort of a gold rush going on up there for uranium," said Dan Seifert, a project coordinator for the mine with Custer National Forest.
The site, however, has sat idle for about 50 years and waste products, known as spoils, have been exposed to the wind and rain. Toxic metals and other elements such as arsenic, uranium, radium and thorium were carried away by the weather, the newspaper said.
A U.S. Forest Service report released in 2006 showed that metals and elements have run off the mine site into two creeks. The report stated that the conditions for ranchers, hunters and Native Americans spending time in the area carried "unacceptable" or "elevated" carcinogenic risks.
Seifert said the settlement funds would allow the construction of pits to bury old mine tailings and cap them with three feet of soil and vegetation. Rock channels to transport runoff water away from contaminated areas could also be built as part of the cleanup project.