Mining Plans and the Environmental Assessment Process
What is What and How Do They Relate?
An Environmental Assessment (EA) is being prepared to disclose and analyze the environmental consequences of the Intrepid Potash Mine and Reclamation Plan (Plan) as proposed by Intrepid Potash-Wendover, LLC (Intrepid). The EA is a site-specific analysis of potential impacts that could result with the implementation of a proposed action or alternatives to the proposed action. The EA assists the BLM in project planning and ensuring compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and in making a determination as to whether any significant impacts could result from the analyzed actions. An EA provides evidence for determining whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or a statement of “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI).
Intrepid operates a potash (potassium chloride or KCL) mining operation within the westernmost area of the Great Salt Lake Desert in Tooele County, Utah. The mining operation was largely unregulated until after passage of the Utah Mine Land Reclamation Act of 1975 and the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976. The Intrepid Mining Plan (Plan) is a modification and update of the 1975 Kaiser Plan which has been the only Plan approved since implementation of regulations requiring Federal approval of leasable mineral operations on public lands. This Plan was prepared based upon the current understanding of the systems in the project area as described by Intrepid personnel and the present layout of Intrepid’s facilities as well as new survey information, hydrologic data, and information from various third parties. Since there had been several changes and modifications to the original Kaiser Plan over the years, when Intrepid purchased the operation from Reilly Industries the BLM wanted the current operation to undergo the NEPA process to assure that Intrepid’s operation is not doing undue and unnecessary degradation to the resources on public lands.
Consistent with section 2 of the Mining and Mineral Policy Act of 1970 and section 102(a), (8), and (12) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), it is the policy of the Department of the Interior to encourage the development of Federal mineral resources and reclamation of disturbed lands. The BLM need is to respond to Intrepid’s submission of an updated Plan.The BLM will decide whether to approve, approve with modification, or not approve the Plan, and if so, under what conditions. The BLM will do this through the process defined by NEPA.
Throughout the process BLM can accept information and comments from any party, but is prohibited by the Federal Advisory Committee Act of entering into negotiations with any party or parties. The final decision must be based upon current scientific data and without undue influence of any one organization or person. The decision, including any stipulations or modifications is the responsibility of the BLM line officer and all working documents and initial information must remain confidential until the release of the EA and unsigned FONSI. Once the BLM has release the EA, the public will have at least 30 days to review and comment.
The Salt Lake Field Office will host a public comment meeting on September 14th at the Airport Hampton Inn, Salt Lake City, Utah. We will start at 5:00PM and hope to wrap up the meeting around 8:00PM.