A mineral exploration project in rural Northern Nevada is back on the table despite concerns about possible impacts on the nearby city of Lovelock’s drinking water. The public has until Sept. 20 to comment on Coeur Mining’s proposed Lincoln Hill plan during the Bureau of Land Management’s 30-day comment period. A collection of historic gold and silver mines dating back at least to the 1860s, Lincoln Hill is located a few miles uphill from Oreana and three Lovelock Meadows Water District groundwater wells that provide municipal drinking water for residents of Lovelock and Lovelock Valley, roughly 15 miles southwest. In an update in January for the Pershing County Commission, Coeur Mining officials said the BLM permitting process for the Lincoln Hill Exploration Project was underway. “We’ve submitted the plan of operations and now we’re going to start the NEPA process,” a Coeur official said. “It’s key to discuss this now because this is when the public gets involved. Within the 8,400-acre area, we’re proposing 200 acres of surface disturbance for exploration.” After the Coeur report, former Pershing County Commissioner Rob McDougal said possible “westward expansion” of mining closer to the LMWD groundwater wells should be a concern. “It’s critically important the county keep an eye on potential impacts to the Lovelock-Oreana hydrologic sub-basin,” McDougal said. “That groundwater is the source of water for the Lovelock Valley.” Lincoln Hill is adjacent to Coeur’s Rochester Mine and ore processing facilities. Lincoln Hill ore could boost precious metal production at the Rochester Mine, Gold Royalty Corp. told investors. “According to Coeur Mining, Lincoln Hill is projected to become a source of higher-grade, low-cost production capable of bolstering future cash flow and further extending Rochester’s mine life,” according to an online statement from Gold Royalty Corp., a gold-focused royalty company based in Vancouver. “Coeur reports Lincoln Hill’s average gold resource grade is more than four times higher than Rochester’s current grade. The Lincoln Hill property covers 97 unpatented claims and one patented lode claim.” According to a 2014 report by Rye Patch Gold Corporation (RPG), Lincoln Hill has a measured and indicated oxide resource of 285,000 ounces of gold and 7.3 million ounces of silver in 23.4 million tons of ore. Inferred oxide resources may yield 74,000 ounces of gold and 2.2 million ounces of silver. In October 2015, the BLM announced a 30-day public scoping period for Rye Patch Gold’s proposed Oreana Exploration Project that included Lincoln Hill and Wilco exploration projects. The RPG Plan of Operations for Lincoln Hill included 200 acres of ground disturbance with new access roads, drill pads and sumps, groundwater monitoring wells and groundwater production wells to provide about 126,000 gallons of water per day needed for drilling and dust control. LINCOLN HILL PLAN RESURRECTED RPG later walked away from the Oreana Exploration Project due to paperwork concerns, said Alana Basso, BLM Project Manager for the Lincoln Hill Exploration Project. “While I wasn’t around then, it’s my understanding the document became a bit too cluttered and the company decided to drop the project at the last minute,” she said. “Since then, Coeur Rochester has picked up the project and they were interested in doing some exploration drilling. Currently, they’re looking at four target sites — Lincoln Hill, Gold Ridge, Neber Hill and Independence Hill.” Coeur’s exploration project includes about 200 acres of disturbance, more than 450 exploration drilling holes and up to eight groundwater monitoring wells. Water for drilling and dust control will be trucked in from Coeur’s groundwater production wells at Rochester and Packard Mines. According to recent statement from Gold Royalty Corp., Coeur Mining’s intent is to bring the mine into production in late 2022 or early 2023, considering Lincoln Hill will reportedly provide higher grade ounces near Rochester’s infrastructure, which should allow Coeur to generate high returns, higher margins and strong cash flow with little incremental capital. Meanwhile, concerns expressed during public scoping earlier this year include impacts on water resources, air quality, public road traffic and wildlife including sage grouse, nesting golden eagles and various bat species that roost, reproduce and hibernate in abandoned mines at Lincoln Hill. Jenni Jeffers of the Nevada Department of Wildlife explained how bats can be protected. “This entire complex of mine hazards should have bat-compatible closures constructed to protect this ‘key’ hibernation roost with a large population of C. townsendii (Townsend’s big-eared bat),” Jeffers said. “Bat compatible gates will also assist in saving human lives by preventing any entry.” John Hadder of Great Basin Resource Watch said a “major fault” with the PEA is the BLM document doesn’t include a cumulative impacts analysis for the Lincoln Hill Exploration Project. “This is a consequence of Trump era changes to the CEQ (Council on Environmental Quality) regulations that affect NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis,” he said. “To not conduct this analysis does a great disservice to the public. Note that our changing climate is a cumulative impact, so to ignore this has significant consequences.” Comments on the Preliminary Environmental Assessment for Lincoln Hill Exploration Project can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Lincoln Hill” in the subject line.
Comments can be sent by mail to the BLM Humboldt River Field Office, 5100 East Winnemucca Blvd, Winnemucca, NV 89445. Mail comments must be postmarked by Sept. 20, 2021.