ASARCO agrees to pay $200 million for toxic clean-up

Chris Rizo Aug. 24, 2008, 9:00am

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-ASARCO LLC has agreed to pay $200 million to clean up toxic contamination from its operations in three Washington counties.

The Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune reported Sunday that of the proposed settlement amount, $122.6 million will go to the state and the federal environmental authorities for decontamination efforts in and around the company's smelter in Ruston, Wash.

The money would also help bankroll work in Pierce, King and Thurston counties, a plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals from the smelter site has affected 1,000 square miles.

Money will also go for clean up at B&L Woodwaste in Milton, Wash., where slag from the smelter was dumped. Funds will also be directed to four ASARCO mine sites and a smaller smelter site in Everett, Wash., that the company once operated.

The clean-up plan is part of the Tucson, Ariz.-based company's efforts to emerge from federal bankruptcy protection. Under the plan, the company would pay off its major secured creditors and provide nearly $2.4 billion to settle roughly $9 billion in environmental and asbestos-related claims.

An official in the Washington attorney general's office said the ASARCO plan is appropriate.

"We think it is very reasonable," Elliott Furst, a senior council on the ecology division of state attorney general's office, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

To generate $2.6 billion in cash, ASARCO plans to sell its Arizona mining and smelting facilities to Sterlite Industries. Asarco also has $1 billion in the bank as the price of copper has tripled since the company filed for federal bankruptcy protection, the newspaper reported.

The plan will be considered by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Schmidt in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"This plan will allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy in a manner that is fair to all constituencies and puts ASARCO's assets under ownership of a world-class global mining company," said ASARCO President and CEO Joseph Lapinsky in a July 31 statement.

"We acknowledge the hard work over many months by all the parties in the bankruptcy case to achieve this significant result," he added. "While we still need court approval of our plan, we believe the end of this complex bankruptcy finally is in sight."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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