Gold-mining companies in the US Newmont and Barrick Goldstrike have signed an agreement with Nevada and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pay penalties and settle hazardous waste release allegations.
The companies will together pay $600,000 in a deal with US and Nevada environmental regulators to settle allegations that they violated hazardous waste laws with releases of mercury from their mines.
The releases were found when inspections took place at two huge open-pit mines, Newmont's Quarry and Barrick's Goldstrike mine in north-east Nevada in 2007.
As part of the agreement, Newmont will pay $395,000 and Barrick Goldstrike mines agreed for $196,000.
Barrick Gold of North America Salt Lake City-based director of communications Louis Schack told AP: "Under the consent decree, Barrick does not admit to any violation or offense, but we do agree to pay the civil penalties to both EPA and NDEP."
According to EPA, the two mines located near Carlin in Nevada were illegally treated and disposed of toxic waste without the required permit.
They failed to identify the materials as federally regulated hazardous waste.
In joint civil complaints filed on 26 February in US District Court in Reno, the state attorney general and the US attorney for Nevada said mercury releases in the waste stream exceeded safe limits under US laws which were aimed at reducing the risks to human health and the environment.
Great Basin Resource Watch director John Hadder said the new consent decree puts to rest the claims made by the mines that no permit is required under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to mix mercury-laden wastes with other wastes.
Image: Barrick's Goldstrike mine seen from an altitude of 38,000ft. Photo: courtesy of Lithium6ion.