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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

Ascot Resources USA Prospecting Permit FAQs

In February 2012, the BLM announced that it is beginning the process to evaluate an exploration plan for hardrock geological prospecting northeast of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The purpose of this initial public scoping process is to determine the nature and range of issues to be addressed in the planning process, including alternatives. Below are some frequently asked questions about this planning effort.

How is the prospecting permit application different than the 2008 fringe acreage lease application?

It is important to note that this is a separate, unconnected, and distinctly different action from the planning work that took place in 2008 regarding a former lease application from General Moly Inc., for the same lands. In April 2008, the BLM announced that it had decided to move forward with the "No Action" alternative in the March 2007 environmental assessment (EA) and reject the hardrock lease application.

This was done after careful consideration of the application, findings of the EA, and public comments. BLM concluded that establishment of lease rights, even with a contingent right stipulation, would be premature until a valuable mineral resource was delineated as a basis for determination of whether development would be compatible with the purpose for which the lands were acquired by the Federal Government.

If the EA is approved what's the next step in the process, and would the BLM be involved in future steps?

Whether this work will yield information about the presence of an economically valuable and physically developable deposit is unknown at this time. Even if this work indicates the presence of an economically valuable mineral deposit, leasing and site development would have to be dealt with as separate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and administrative actions over which the BLM has full regulatory discretion. These potential future actions would be subject to the written consent of the U.S. Forest Service and need to be in the public's interest.

In accordance agency legal requirements, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service have initiated a thorough EA of Ascot's proposed exploration plan. This work will be processed by a third-party consultant, the United Research Service.

Is the BLM or the U.S. Forest Service the ultimate decision-maker in this EA?

The BLM and USFS will jointly prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) based on Ascot's Exploration Plan. The BLM will be the lead agency with jurisdiction for the federal action (the prospecting permit), and the process would conclude with the signing of a Decision Record (DR) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

Where and how large is the area covered by the prospecting permit applications?

In March 2011, Ascot USA Inc., applied for two hardrock prospecting permits for approximately 900 acres of specified Mineral Survey lands in the western part of the State within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Minerals applied for include copper, molybdenum, silver and gold and associated minerals.

Name Serial # Patent Date Acres Lot #
Germania Group 114944 March 21, 1910 217.273 MS 708*
Index Group 43393 March 8, 1906 247.932 MS 779**
Earl Group 43189 November 20, 1906 266.148 MS 774**
Judy/April Group 46820016 August 6, 1982 163.892 MS 1329**
Wendy Group 46820017 August 6, 1982 2.699 MS 1330**
Total Area Under Application     897.944  

* Federal surface with split mineral estate 50% Federal & 50% private (Fractional Interest Prospecting Permit WAOR - 066973)
** Full Fee Federal surface and mineral estate (Prospecting Permit WAOR - 066628)

The lands are located in portions of Sections 7, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18, and 19 of Township 10 North, Range 6 East, Willamette Meridian, Skamania County, Washington, on or adjacent to the southwest facing slope of Goat Mountain in the Mount St. Helens Mining District.

Major blocks of both patented lands and mining claim exist in the mining district.

The subject lands extend northeastward from the boundary of the 110,300-acre Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument – approximately 12 miles northeast of the volcanic crater on the fringe of the 1980 eruption blast zone. Because these lands were patented at the time of Monument designation including the existence of adjoining blocks of mining claims, Congress intentionally left them out of the volcanic area.

In addition, the Monument Act did not create buffer zones nor place restriction on adjacent land use other than those in the applicable 1990 Gifford Pinchot National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan as amended by the Northwest Forest Plan of 1994.

Neither plan prohibits mining.

What is the nature of the proposed geologic exploration?

Ascot proposes to carry out geotechnical/geological exploration by directional diamond core drilling of approximately 63 2-inch-diameter holes using portable equipment operating on 23 pad sites many of which were previously established by Duval when they held patent to the subject lands. Each drill sites will occupy less than 400 square feet for a total disturbance of less than one-quarter acre. Access to these sites will require the temporary reactivation of approximately 1.7 miles (~3.1 acres) of former roads. All disturbances will be fully reclaimed.

The BLM and USFS will jointly prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) based on Ascot's Exploration Plan. BLM will be the lead agency with jurisdiction for the federal action (issuance of the prospecting permit), and would sign a Decision Record (DR) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

Based on findings of the EA, the USFS must determine whether or not to consent to the BLM's decision to issue the prospecting permit along with such terms and conditions as are necessary to protect other resources and to comply with applicable land use plans. The USFS will issue a Decision Notice that includes consent (or denial of consent) and a separate FONSI.

Is this action being taken under the Minerals Leasing Act, the 1872 mining law, or a combination of laws and regulations?

The acquired status of the subject lands removes them from operation under the Mining Law of 1872. Instead, all Federal minerals, including hardrock minerals, are available for prospecting under the authority of the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947 pursuant to Section 402 of the Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1946. This Plan transferred the functions of the Secretary of Agriculture for disposal of hardrock minerals on acquired lands to the Secretary of the Interior.

Applicable regulations are found at 43 CFR 3505 for Prospecting Permits and Subpart 3509 for Fractional Interest Prospecting. By construct of regulation, the BLM has full discretion regarding issuance of a prospecting permit subject to the written consent of the US Forest Service.

Under the President's Reorganization Plan 3 of 1946, Section 402 authority to lease hardrock minerals on acquired lands within National Forests was transferred to the Secretary of Interior. See FSM 2822.13 and 43 CFR 3501.1(b). These statutes and their implementing regulations, orders, and notices authorize the BLM to issue prospecting permits and leases and to approve and administer any subsequent operations regarding exploration, development, production, and transportation of federally owned leasable minerals, including those within the National Forest system. The BLM's leasing authority and USFS consent are discretionary actions and must comply with NEPA; the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended (PL 94-579); the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, PL 93-378, as amended by the National Forest Management Act, PL 94-588; and other applicable statutes, regulations, Executive Orders, manuals, handbooks, and land use plans.