Trustees Settle Natural Resource Damage Claims Arising from Hazardous Substances Releases at Rio Tinto Mine, Elko County, Nevada

Last edited 09/25/2020


Mine tailing from Rio Tinto Mine -- an abandoned copper mine in Elko County in northeastern Nevada -- have been deposited in Mill Creek Valley, as shown here. Mill Creek, on the left, runs through Mill Creek Valley and transports hazardous substances downstream to East Fork Owyhee River. Photo credit: Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

On May 20, 2013, the federal, State and Tribal natural resource trustees settled natural resource damage claims with four parties arising from hazardous substances releases at Rio Tinto Mine, near Mountain City, Elko County, in northern Nevada. The settling parties include: Atlantic Richfield Co., The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co., E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Teck American, Inc. and Mountain City Remediation, LLC. The settlement is embodied in a Consent Decree that was entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation;
  • State of Nevada, represented by Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/Division of Environmental Protection and Nevada Department of Wildlife;
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, represented by U.S. Forest Service; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Rio Tinto Mine site is an abandoned copper mine and associated mill, heap leach pads and tailings located on 280 acres, south of Mountain City in Elko County in northern Nevada. Copper ore was mined at the site starting in 1931. Mine tailings and process residues were disposed in and around Mill Creek which runs through the site and then into East Fork Owyhee River. Historic fish kills and other water quality problems in East Fork Owyhee River have been attributed to hazardous substances releases from the site via Mill Creek.

The site is not on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List. Response actions at the site are being undertaken, pursuant to EPA’s “Superfund Alternative Approach” for non-NPL sites, in a manner consistent with the National Contingency Plan.

Under this settlement for natural resource damages in the entered Consent Decree, the settling companies will:

  • Pay $709,527.81 to the U.S. for DOA’s and DOI’s assessment costs; and,
  • Pay $150,000 to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation for natural resource damages, assessment costs and future costs for the Tribes’ oversight of this Consent Decree.

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