Mexican mining firm to create $151 million trust to pay for damage from spill into 2 rivers

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FILE - In this Aug. 12, 2014, file photo, the Sonora river contaminated by the spill of millions gallons of copper sulfate and heavy metals from a copper mine, makes its way through the hills near the town of Mazocahui, in the northern state of Sonora, Mexico. Water pollution disasters in Mexico have turned into political battles as officials struggled to blame each other for the problems. On Wednesday Sept 10, 2014, Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres blamed federal authorities for not doing enough to stop or remediate the spill. (AP Photo/El Imparcial, Julian Ortega, File)

MEXICO CITY — A mining conglomerate will set up a roughly $151 million trust to pay for damage caused when one of its mines spilled acid-laced copper sulfate and heavy metals into two rivers in northern Mexico, authorities said Thursday.

Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo said that Grupo Mexico agreed to create the trust but that the $1 billion-a-year mining company still faces fines.

The total amount the company will have to pay to repair the damage done by the Buenavista copper mine in the border state of Sonora hasn't yet been determined, he said.

"Without going before a judge, the company has agreed to wrongdoing and created a trust of 2 billion pesos to repair the damage," Guajardo said.

Officials have said the company lied about what caused the Aug. 7 spill and the measures it supposedly took to control its effects. The company blamed heavy rains for the overflow of containment ponds, but officials have said lax supervision at the mine and construction defects appeared to have caused the accident.

People affected by the spill can file complaints to get trust money and a committee of experts and government officials will decide who gets the funds, Guajardo said.

The spill sent about 10 million gallons (40,000 cubic meters) of copper sulfate and heavy metals into the rivers and on to a reservoir behind a dam that supplies water to the capital of Sonora.

Despite the accident, the mine continues to operate. It produces about 200,000 tons of copper annually.

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