OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (AP) - The state of Oklahoma has reached a tentative settlement with a mining company that would provide nearly $65 million to agencies involved in restoration efforts at the Tar Creek Superfund site.
A hearing on the settlement with Asarco LLC is scheduled for Nov. 13 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi, according to a news release from Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office.
J.D. Strong, chief of staff for the state secretary of the environment, said he didn't know how the money would be used or whether any of it would go toward property buyouts in the area.
“There's quite a bit of procedure to go in order to determine precisely how much money we'll get and to determine legally what it can and can't be spent for,” Strong said.
The Tar Creek Superfund site in far northeastern Oklahoma covers a 40-square-mile area polluted by decades of lead and zinc mining. The area has been plagued by mine collapses, open mine shafts, acid mine water that stains Tar Creek orange and mountains of lead-contaminated waste.
If the settlement is approved, Oklahoma would receive $7.5 million, which the state Department of Environmental Quality and secretary of the environment would use for the reimbursement of response costs and for natural resource damage.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Indian Affairs would receive a combined $33 million. A Natural Resource Trustee Council, consisting of state, Department of Interior and tribal representatives, would receive $24.2 million to cover restoration costs.
Miles Tolbert, state secretary of the environment, said the funds will provide a shot in the arm for public safety and environmental concerns.
“The EPA and BIA monies are directed to a site-specific account to be used to conduct or finance response actions at or in connection with Tar Creek. The trustee council money is directed to a site-specific DOI account to be used for restoration in connection with the Tar Creek area.”
Asarco, doing business as Federal Mining and Smelting Co., ceased mining in the area in 1952, court documents show.
Asarco's Web site says that the Tuscon, Ariz., company is an integrated miner, smelter and refiner of copper in the United States and Peru.
The company filed to reorganize in August 2005 to deal with environmental claims that the government has said may exceed $700 million, published reports say.
The pending settlement also includes money for the Cherokee County, Kan., portion of the Superfund site and two sites in Missouri.