American Smelting and Refining Company (Asarco) has paid $1.79bn to the US Government for the environmental clean-up and restoration of land contaminated at various mining sites.

The enforced payment has led to the largest environmental bankruptcy to date.

The Arizona-based nonnferrous metal producer handles sites across the US that its EPA said are polluted with toxic waste.

The funds garnered from the bankruptcy will be deployed to pay for costs incurred by state and federal agencies at more than 80 sites in 19 states in the US polluted by mining operations.

Out of the $1.79bn, $776m will be used for underlying settlements to address more than 35 sites, while more than $321m was given to 14 states to finance environmental settlement obligations at more than 36 sites.

Nearly $436m was paid to the Coeur d’Alene Work Trust, while three custodial trusts that cover the owned assets of ASARCO and include 13 states and 24 sites were paid $261m.

A major portion of the funds paid to the US will be put in special accounts in the superfund and will be deployed by the EPA for imminent cleanup activities.

On 9 August 2005, ASCARO filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code.