In what the U.S. Department of Justice is touting as the largest environmental bankruptcy in U.S. history, mining giant Asarco has paid $1.79 billion to fund environmental cleanup efforts at more than 80 sites in 19 states.

Asarco has spent the past 110 years extracting lead, zinc and copper at sites around the country, leaving in its wake a lot of hazardous material. But with the company mired in debt during the past decade, it seemed unlikely that it would be held liable for the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites.

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