State, Navajo Nation settle over mine spill

The Navajo Nation and the state of New Mexico have reached multimillion-dollar settlements with mining companies to resolve claims stemming from a 2015 spill that resulted in rivers in three Western states being fouled with a bright-yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Under the settlement with the Navajo Nation, Sunnyside Gold Corp. — a subsidiary of Canada’s Kinross Gold — will pay the tribe $10 million. New Mexico’s agreement includes a $10 million payment for lost tax revenue and environmental response costs as well as $1 million for injuries to the state’s natural resources.

The spill released 3 million gallons of wastewater from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado. A crew hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency triggered the spill while trying to excavate the mine opening in preparation for a possible cleanup.

The wastewater made its way into the Animas River and eventually down to the San Juan River, setting off a major response by government agencies, the tribe and private groups.

Water utilities were forced to shut down intake valves, and farmers stopped drawing from the rivers as the plume moved downstream.

The tribe said the toxic water coursed through 200 miles of river on Navajo lands.

The tribe’s claims against the EPA and its contractors remain pending. About 300 individual tribal members also have claims pending as part of a separate lawsuit.

State officials said the Animas Valley is now well within irrigation standards. But farmers continue to see lower sales because of the stigma left behind by the spill.


Man who trained with ISIS pleads guilty

A Minnesota man who traveled to Syria and Iraq where prosecutors say he became a soldier for the Islamic State group pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a terrorism count.

Abdelhamid al-Madioum, 24, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court of Minnesota to one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

According to his plea agreement and court documents, Madioum left his family while they were visiting extended relatives in Morocco in 2015 and went to Istanbul, where members of the Islamic State group helped him cross into Syria. Once in Syria, he joined other members of the Islamic State, who brought him to Mosul, Iraq, where he enrolled as a member of the group and began receiving military training.

Madioum admitted in his guilty plea that he was assigned to a battalion that was responsible for training and preparing foreign fighters to carry out suicide attacks in Europe.

He admitted he was a soldier until he was injured while conducting military activities for the group. After his injury, he continued to receive payments from the group; he surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces in March 2019, according to the plea agreement.

Madioum was in Syrian custody for more than a year, and was returned to Minnesota last September to face charges.

Madioum, who was 18 when he left for Syria, is a native of Morocco and a naturalized U.S. citizen.