The Idaho Land Board voted unanimously this morning to affirm its staff’s decision to reject two mineral lease applications from Jonathan Swift Mining Co. to lease two stretches of the bed of the Coeur d’Alene River – in the Bunker Hill Superfund site – to mine underwater lead, zinc and silver.
“Have we had conversations with the people up north to determine what their real intention is here?” asked state Controller Keith Johnson. State Lands Director Winston Wiggins responded, “My only conversations … the company believed they could remove these sediments and simultaneously make a profit from these sediments while cleaning up the river. … It seems a little bit out of the realm of realism that that could be possible.” But Wiggins said if there’s new technology that allows that without affecting water quality in the Superfund site, and if the EPA signs off on that, the firm could always reapply.
The DEQ sent a letter noting that if the state authorized mineral leases in a Superfund site, it could become a “potentially responsible party” for pollution there and be held jointly and severally liable for all cleanup in the site – retroactively.