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EPA Announces $500 Million Cleanup For Chevron Superfund Mine In New Mexico

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QUESTA, N.M. — The operators of a molybdenum mine in northern New Mexico say there were no surprises in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announcement of a $500 million cleanup plan for the Molycorp Superfund site.

The EPA announced its cleanup plan, called a record of decision, on Tuesday.

Margaret Lejuste, a spokeswoman for Chevron Mining Inc., which owns the Superfund site, said Wednesday the plan was the next step in a process that's been going on for a decade.

The record of decision defines what needs to be accomplished. Chevron now will begin discussions with the EPA about how the work will be done, Lejuste said.

The site near Questa includes an operational mine and milling facility, a tailings facility and a tailings pipeline from the mill to the tailings facility. Tailings are waste left over from mining operations.

The EPA said contaminated material from the Molycorp site includes about 328 million tons of acid-generating waste rock, more than 100 million tons of tailings and acid-rock drainage at the mine and seepage at the tailings facility.

The cleanup plan proposes excavating contaminated soil and waste rocks, intercepting water draining from the site's waste rock piles, removing and treating water from the underground mine and covering contaminated material at the tailings facility.

The federal agency estimates the cleanup cost at more than $500 million and possibly as much as $800 million. Lejuste said the figure was not a surprise to Chevron, which will do the work.

Chevron will continue operating the mine while working with the EPA, Lejuste said.

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