DENVER – Today, the Colorado General Assembly made its final vote to approve HB 19-1113, a bill that will protect water quality at hardrock mines in the state and reduce risks to taxpayers. The bill enacts three important reforms:
- Specifies that the Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety has authority to require bonds to protect water quality;
- Requires companies to demonstrate that water quality will be restored after mining ceases and that permanent water treatment will not be the final result; and,
- Directs hardrock mining companies to provide financial assurances in the form of real assets before they begin operations. The bill also gives the state the authority it needs to include the costs of water quality treatment in mine bonds.
A coalition of conservation groups issued the following statements praising the bill’s passage:
“HB 1113 is an important step forward to protect Colorado’s rivers and streams from devastating and permanent impacts from mining. After the Gold King Mine spill in 2015, we understood how important it was to pass protective legislation to ensure that future mines in Colorado are no longer allowed to become perpetual polluters by design. From here on out, mines will have to prove up front that they will be able to fully restore water quality after final closure.” — Marcel Gaztambide, Animas Riverkeeper, San Juan Citizens Alliance.
“The bill strikes a balance that requires future hardrock mines to provide sufficient scientific analysis to protect water quality over the long term. Historic mining practices have left a devastating legacy of pollution and impaired rivers and streams across Colorado. HB 1113 ensures that communities will be protected in the future and that the destructive practices of the past will be left in the past.” — Lexi Tuddenham, Director, Sheep Mountain Alliance
“Colorado taxpayers have been burdened by the costs of running water treatment plants at hardrock mines in order to guarantee that the water is clean enough to be discharged into streams, from the San Juan Mountains, to Clear Creek, to the Eagle Mine near Minturn. For example, the Summitville Mine in the San Juans went bankrupt in the 1990s, and is now a Superfund site that costs taxpayers $2 million a year just to run the water treatment plant. That’s an outcome that HB 1113 will prevent.” — Josh Kuhn, Water Advocate, Conservation Colorado
“Ending self-bonds and requiring enough money up front to pay for cleanup is an important step forward in protecting communities and the environment from irresponsible mining. HB 19-1113 is also a significant advance in efforts to reduce the risks from perpetual pollution. This puts Colorado ahead of many other states in the nation, where these destructive mining practices are still being approved despite the overwhelming risks.” — Pete Dronkers, Southwest Circuit Rider, Earthworks
“Colorado is now a leader in protecting the environment from irresponsible mining practices. By enacting these reforms, Colorado is pushing the envelope and striking the right balance between protecting the environment and allowing mines to operate in a way that benefits the economy without leaving a lasting legacy of damage.” — Jennifer Thurston, Director, INFORM
Brendan McLaughlin, Earthworks, email@example.com | Jennifer Thurston, INFORM, firstname.lastname@example.org | Garrett Garner-Wells, Conservation Colorado, email@example.com | Marcel Gaztambide, San Juan Citizens Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org | Lexi Tuddenham, Sheep Mountain Alliance, email@example.com