Another 16 companies associated with mining in the Silver Valley may be added to a billion-dollar lawsuit over natural resource damages in the Coeur d’Alene Basin.
The U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe sent letters on June 27 to the companies warning they could be included in the lawsuit, which seeks money for cleaning up a century of mining pollution.
Now, only four mining companies are named in the lawsuit.
Earlier this month, 70 companies received letters from the Environmental Protection Agency - on behalf of the other agencies - demanding information on mining activities dating back to the 1880s. Only 16 of those are now at risk of being sued.
The companies were given two weeks to divulge all documents from the last 100 years that detail their involvement in mining activities in the Silver Valley. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, demanded that the EPA allow the companies more time to compile documents, and some extensions were granted.
The 1996 federal lawsuit was consolidated with an earlier lawsuit filed by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. The federal government and the tribe had until today to notify any additional companies that they could be added to the lawsuit.
The U.S. District Court set Aug. 29 as a deadline to add new parties to the suit.
The 1996 lawsuit originally was filed against ASARCO Inc., Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp., Hecla Mining Co. and Sunshine Mining Co.
The 16 companies that could be added as co-defendants are: Abot Mining Co., Atlantic Richfield Co., Blackhawk Mining and Developing Co., Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway Co., Consil, Golconda Mining Corp., Group R Co., Marmon Corp., The Marmon Group, Highland Surprise Consolidated Mining Co., Louisiana-Pacific Corp., N.L. Industries, Nine Corp., Phillips Brothers, Sidney Mining Co. and Silver Mountain Lead Mines.
Federal officials explained that the letters do not mean that the 16 companies are necessarily going to be sued. The information they provide will allow the U.S. Justice Department and the tribe to decide whether to include them in the suit.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.