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Molycorp, Inc., Site in New Mexico Proposed to Federal Superfund List

Release Date: 5/11/2000
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes to add the Molycorp, Inc., site near Questa, New Mexico, to the federal Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). Uncontrolled acidic, metal laden runoff from the molybdenum mine and its associated tailings ponds threatens the Red River fishery and nearby endangered species habitats.  

     "Adding this site to the Superfund list makes federal dollars available, allowing EPA and the New Mexico Environment Department to speed their cleanup and meet the agencies' commitment to protecting public health and our environment," EPA Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke said.

     Small-scale underground mining operations began at the mine in 1920, and have expanded to over 35 miles of underground mine workings and an open pit mine. Approximately 328 million tons of potentially acid generating waste rock were excavated and deposited in large piles surrounding the mine.

     A nine-mile pipeline carries tailings and water from a mill and concentrator at the mine site to tailings ponds six miles west of the mine. Up to 80 spills from the pipeline, which runs parallel to and within a few feet of the Red River, occurred between 1966 and 1976. Approximately 95 million tons of fine-grained tailings have been deposited in the four tailings ponds.

     Water quality studies conducted by a variety of state and federal agencies since 1966 have documented significant metals contamination in the Red River from uncontrolled runoff from the mine. In addition, both the shallow ground water and surface waters draining the site have become contaminated with acidic, metal laden waters.  Contaminants of concern include arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, and zinc.  

     The Red River is home to a state fish hatchery located three miles downstream of the site. The river also provides irrigation and livestock watering and supports numerous wetlands and habitat for several threatened or endangered species, including the bald eagle.

     The EPA Superfund program works closely with state agencies to clean and restore uncontrolled contaminated properties. Superfund cleans sites when the work required is beyond the resources of state and local agencies.

     EPA will seek public comments for 60 days on adding this site to the NPL. Those comments will be addressed before the Agency makes the final decision about adding the site to the NPL. During this public comment period, the Agency will continue to develop cleanup plans so that actual work may begin as quickly after NPL listing as possible.

     Send comments by July 10, 2000, to Docket Coordinator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CERCLA Docket Office (Mail Code 5201 G), Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20460, 703.603.9232.

     Comments may also be submitted by express mail. Send original and three copies of comments (no facsimiles or tapes) to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters, U.S. EPA, CERCLA Docket Office, 1235 Jefferson Davis Highway, Crystal Gateway #1, First Floor, Arlington, VA 22202, or by e-mail in ASCII format only to

     Additional information about this site is available on the EPA web site at