Asarco Files Lawsuits For Help With Cleanup Costs In Montana

Asarco LLC wants three other companies to help pay for environmental cleanup required in Montana at its former lead smelter in East Helena and a silver mine near Philipsburg.

Asarco filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Helena last week alleging that BP America, American Chemet and the Hecla Mining Co., all contributed to the pollution, the Independent Record reported Sunday.

Asarco paid $113 million in a 2009 bankruptcy settlement for cleanup at the smelter. Asarco argues that the Atlantic Richfield Co., now owned by BP America, owned and operated a zinc mining facility at the East Helena plant site from 1927-1972. It also alleges American Chemet’s operations near the smelter led to the discharge of hazardous substances.

Asarco also paid $17.7 million for cleanup at the Black Pine mine, which was owned by Hecla from 1922-1931.

Asarco attorney Gregory Evans said the company filed the lawsuits to meet a three-year deadline under Superfund statutes.

Phyllis Best, the chief financial officer for American Chemet, said she hadn’t seen or heard about the lawsuit and couldn’t comment, while Jeanne DuPont with Hecla Mining said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

BP America spokeswoman Lisa Houghton told The Associated Press on Monday that BP has not seen the lawsuit, but that the company continues to meet its obligations with regard to the Anaconda Co.’s former operations. The Anaconda Co., which was later purchased by ARCO, ran the zinc operation, she said.