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PRESCOTT, Ariz. – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Freeport Mineral Corporation has met all requirements of a consent decree to address unpermitted discharges of mine drainage at the United Verde Mine near Jerome, Arizona. The site is an inactive copper mine.

In 2003, EPA and Freeport Mineral Corporation (successor to the Phelps Dodge Corporation) signed a consent decree to resolve Clean Water Act violations. EPA alleged that the company discharged mine wastewater containing copper, cadmium, zinc and other pollutants into Bitter Creek without having a Clean Water Act permit. Freeport paid a $220,142 penalty and agreed to three reclamation and pollution prevention projects to prevent future wastewater discharges into Bitter Creek and improve the overall environment of the mine site.

“Freeport Mineral Corporation has successfully met its obligations to reclaim United Verde Mine site and prevent further damage to waterways in the area,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “This case exemplifies the benefits of our settlements and the development of long-term partnerships with companies in monitoring compliance with these agreements.”

Freeport spent approximately $30 million to complete three projects outlined in the consent decree:

  • The Stockpile Reclamation Project capped acid generating stockpiles and revegetated the area.
  • The Stockpile Seep Project installed a pump with backup power to eliminate wastewater discharges from the site.
  • The Section House Canyon Project reconstructed and lined retention ponds to prevent potential wastewater discharges into Bitter Creek.

Freeport completed the projects required under the consent decree in February 2019 and successfully met the terms of the agreement. On Nov. 26, 2019, the U.S. District Court of Arizona entered an order terminating the consent decree.

The United Verde Mine operated from the late 1800s until 1953. At sites like this, ground or surface water drains through old mine tunnels or waste rock and comes into contact with acidic minerals, which then dissolve metals. This polluted water can then flow to the surface and contaminate streams and harm aquatic life.

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