Grupo Mexico pays Asarco's $1.79 billion environment cleanup bill

After winning a year-long legal battle with Vedanta group's mining flagship Sterlite Industries for acquiring the bankrupt US copper miner Asarco LLC , South American mining giant Grupo Mexico has paid $1.79 billion for cleaning up hazardous waste and restoring the environment, the largest payout for such clean up in the US, said the US Justice Department yesterday.

Tucson-based Asarco is a leading producer of copper and one of the largest non-ferrous metal producers in the US. It is based in Arizona and is responsible for more than 80 sites contaminated with hazardous waste by mining operations in 19 US states.

Those sites are located in Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

The payment will be used for environmental clean up and restoration and much of the money paid to the US will be placed in special accounts in the Superfund to be used by Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to pay for future cleanup work. Part of the money will also be placed into accounts at the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to pay for natural resource restoration.

''Today's landmark enforcement settlement will provide almost one billion dollars to clean up polluted Superfund sites,'' said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. ''This will mean cleaner land, water and air for communities across the country.''

Grupo Mexico, which bought Asarco in 1999, lost control of its subsidary in 2005 after it failed to meet costs for asbestos claims and environmental cleanup at its abandoned mines and refineries in Western US.