The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to add Argonaut Mine in Amador County, California, to the Superfund programme's national priorities List (NPL), making the site eligible to receive federal funding for cleanup.

EPA Pacific Southwest acting regional administrator Alexis Strauss said: “Now that Argonaut Mine is on the Superfund list, EPA can begin full-scale efforts to clean up contaminated soil throughout the site.

“As we have been working with the community since 2013, this is an important step to address the mine’s toxic legacy.”

The hard rock gold mine Argonaut is located west of downtown Jackson and operated from the 1850s to 1942.

"This is an important step to address the mine’s toxic legacy."

The Argonaut Mining Company, which is now defunct, processed ore and disposed of tailings on the north-west side of Jackson contaminating soil in a 65-acre area to the west of Highway 49.

Last year, the agency took action to cleanup the highest levels of contamination at 11 residential properties and a vacant lot in Jackson, as well as installing a protective cover on steep soil slopes at the junior high school.

As the mine is now on the national priorities list, it will now receive funding for a long-term, permanent cleanup.

EPA will start an investigation at the site and seek comments from public before selecting a cleanup plan.

The agency said it will work with The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the city of Jackson to ensure public safety and protect public health as the project goes ahead.

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) law, which establishes the Superfund programme, EPA is required to update the NPL at least annually and cleanup hazardous waste sites to protect human health.