Battle Mountain, NV - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Battle Mountain District, Mount Lewis Field Office has issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Phoenix Copper Leach Project as proposed by the Newmont Mining Corporation in an Amendment to the Plan of Operations for a new copper processing plant and appurtenant facilities. The proposed project would be located in north-central Nevada approximately 12 miles southwest of Battle Mountain on private and public lands in Lander County, Nevada.
The project would involve the expansion and operation of the existing Phoenix Mine to include copper leaching/beneficiation of copper oxide rock material that previously has been permitted for disposal on currently permitted waste rock facilities. The project, as proposed, would disturb a total of 902 acres: 708 acres of private land owned by Newmont and 194 acres of public land. These lands are located in an already heavily mined area and the copper ore was previously being mined and placed on existing waste-rock facilities. Active mining and processing for the proposed project would last approximately 24 years; overall closure and reclamation activities are anticipated to extend approximately 25 years beyond the operational phase. A minimum of 13 years of re-vegetation and reclamation monitoring would be required following mine closure.
The Final EIS is an abbreviated document that only includes the changes made to the Draft EIS. To understand the Final EIS one must have to have both the Draft and Final documents to compare the changes. The Draft EIS analyzing the potential impacts of Newmont’s proposal was issued to the public in October for a 45-day public comment period, which ended on December 12, 2011.
During the comment period, there were 16 letters of support for the project sent to the BLM from private citizens, as well as the Lander Economic Development Authority, the Lander County Public Lands Use Advisory Council, and the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
The Region IX Office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nevada State Clearinghouse, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) provided written comments on the Draft EIS.
The EPA’s comments focused on concerns related to the BLM’s long-term funding mechanism process, and issues tied to the Willow Creek drainage that lies just west of the proposed project. The BLM requires certain mine projects to have a long-term trust fund that provides monies to be available to the BLM should a mining project need long-term maintenance or pose potential long-term environmental risks. The concern regarding Willow Creek is that the channel may migrate over time to the east and potentially undermine the southwest corner of the Phoenix Copper Leach Pad which could result in impacts from a flood event. The BLM and Newmont addressed this concern through technical studies that indicated that scenario has a very low probability of occurring.
The Nevada State Clearinghouse provided comments about the likely cumulative impacts the proposed project may cause to certain resources, including visual impacts to the view shed and how new project lighting might affect the night skies.
The NDOW’s comments focused on how often wildlife exclusion facilities such as fencing and bird netting over solution ponds would be monitored. The NDOW also wanted to know how long certain evaporation pond liners, once buried at closure, would remain viable.
Publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on April 27, 2012, set a 30-day period before the BLM will issue the Record of Decision; the comment period ends May 29, 2012.
Copies of the Draft and Final EISs are available at the BLM office at 50 Bastian Road in Battle Mountain, may be requested via email at: CU_Leach@blm.gov; or for review or download from the Battle Mountain BLM’s web page at www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/battle_mountain_field/blm_information/national_environmental.html.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, recreational and other activities on BLM-managed land contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 600,000 American jobs. The Bureau is also one of a handful of agencies that collects more revenue than it spends. In FY 2012, nearly $5.7 billion will be generated on lands managed by the BLM, which operates on a $1.1 billion budget. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.