The Lisbon Valley Copper Mine that operates on federal and state lands in San Juan County went bankrupt in March, just a few months after announcing plans to extend the life of the mine by pumping sulfuric acid into the ground to dissolve copper ores.
The mine previously went bankrupt in 2008 when mine owners overestimated potential production and set prices too low. The defunct mine was acquired by the current company in 2009. In March, mine employees were furloughed with no paycheck until the company can sell its assets to cover payroll. This time the bust was caused by the economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The closed mine left behind 380 million gallons of sulfuric acid. An emergency order for reclamation from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining noted, “The failure of the pumps at the leech pads and ponds would result in a release of sulfuric acid into the environment after only 37 hours.”
This is an excerpt from our June EnviroNews column. View the full article here.