The owner of an old asbestos mine in Libby, Montana, W.R. Grace, recently offered the state of Montana over $18 million to settle the state’s claims for natural resource damages. Montana has claimed substantial damage to its natural and environmental resources due to the irresponsibility of W.R. Grace & Co.’s business practices while operating the mine. The settlement will relieve the company from many of its liabilities to Montana but will still hold the mining company answerable for its reckless mistakes.
Some Background on the Mine
W.R. Grace & Co. owned and operated a mine that was used to extract and grind vermiculite, a substance found close to asbestos. Because of its closeness to asbestos, it is easy for vermiculite to be asbestos-contaminated.
Loads of vermiculite were thrown throughout the small town of Libby, and mounds of dirt and rock could be spotted around the small town. Children would go near the vermiculite to play and would leave there already exposed to asbestos. Also, asbestos broke free from the vermiculite and became airborne, meaning anyone in the small town was at risk of asbestos exposure.
Most individuals exposed to asbestos while the mine was in operation were those who worked there. However, a lot of asbestos exposure also occurred in other places other than the mine. Asbestos exposure happened in people’s homes and all over the town. People who worked in the mine would unknowingly take home asbestos fibers. This resulted in secondhand asbestos exposure for family members of the miners or friends. Health officials approximate that several thousand individuals who suffered asbestos exposure because of the mine have developed asbestos-related illnesses, and hundreds have passed away.
The EPA cleaned up over 2,600 properties. The cleanup work cost hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2008, the mining company agreed to pay the agency $250 million for the work.
More on the $18.5 Million Settlement Offer
The $18.5 million settlement will bring an end to a part of the investigation that has been ongoing for decades. The mining company faced more than 65,000 asbestos-related personal injury claims from over 129,000 people. There has been and still is litigation involving affected individuals and their families. This includes people with mesothelioma and surviving loved ones of people who died because of mesothelioma. The settlement amount will be used to resolve claims. It will fund continuing clean-up projects and replace, restore, or rehabilitate damaged natural resources.
According to the mining company’s spokesperson, the settlement is a part of their continuing dedication to working together with the people of Libby, Montana, as a state and others. After reaching a final agreement, the mining company will have six months to pay the first $5 million. The rest of the payments, together with interest, will then be paid over a period of 10 years.
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