Hycroft Mine expansion near Winnemucca would extend mine life into 2040
The Humboldt Sun
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Winnemucca District has signed the Record of Decision for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Hycroft Mines in Humboldt and Pershing County.
The decision was announced Oct. 22.
Proposal documents state Hycroft would expand mining and ore processing activities on public lands at the existing gold and silver Hycroft Mine, located in the Sulfur Mining district, 54 miles west of Winnemucca.
The proposed expansion total mine-related surface disturbance would increase by 8,737 acres on public land, from approximately 6,144 acres to 14,881 acres.
This would also expand the authorized project boundary, which encompasses 14,753 acres, by an additional 13,082 acres of public land, for a total of 27,835 acres on public and private land.
Documents show that Hycroft would construct and operate a 3,465-acre facility (dam and tails storage) known as the Northeast Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) to accommodate tailings generated by mining sulfide ore below the groundwater table and processed in the authorized mill facility located on private land.
Additionally, Hycroft would expand mining activities in the Brimstone Pit by removing material below the pre-mining groundwater table thus requiring dewatering activities. Upon cessation of mining and dewatering activities, infiltration of groundwater into the Brimstone Pit would result in the formation of a pit lake.
The expansion is expected to affect golden eagle nests and territories. In a letter issued from the BLM regarding the decision, it said Hycroft had requested “has requested authorization from the [US Fish and Wildlife Service] USFWS to remove inactive (i.e., outside of the nesting season) golden eagle nests and for incidental disturbance take which would result in the loss of golden eagle breeding territories. [Hycroft] has requested authorization from the Service to remove inactive golden eagle nests and a 30-year incidental take permit for golden eagles under the Eagle Act.”
Of the six alternatives proposed, the BLM preferred “Alternative A” action “which results in a take of only one eagle territory.”
The agency’s rationale is that “The take of golden eagle nests and loss of golden eagle territory is a critical issue for Native American tribes, the USFWS and the BLM, and therefore was taken heavily into account in the rationale for selecting Alternative A.
Alternative A will result in the take of three golden eagle nests and the loss of one territory (Silver Camel eagle territory). Whereas, a selection of the proposed action alternative would have resulted in the take of six golden eagle nests and three eagle territories.
The USFWS will determine whether to permit any eagle nest take or loss of eagle territories. USFWS will issue its decision under a separate [Record of Decision].” USFWS has not issued its decision yet.
Other concerns listed in the Record of Decision include stability of the tailings facility impoundment due to its size and because of seismic activity in the area, the special status of bat species “because bat species in Nevada have uncertain trends and are vulnerable to population declines from habitat loss and disease,” concern for burrowing owls because they are “vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation,” potentially affecting historic properties which are eligible for National Register of Historic Places designation and other cultural and natural resource concerns.
The proposal would extend the period of mining from the previous authorization by 15 years, from 2024 to 2039, with ore processing continuing an additional two years after mining operations cease until 2041.
The mine restarted operations in early 2019 with an oxidation process the company developed for sulfide material in a heap leach setting.
The mine would employ 515 employees once fully operational. According to the plan approved by the BLM, this is a decrease of 291 workers from the previously authorized 806 employees. The company currently has about 120 employees at the mine.
Allied Nevada Corp. went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2015, laying off 230 employees with approximately 135 employees temporarily keeping their jobs while gold processing continued. It emerged from bankruptcy in Oct. 2015, at which time the company’s new name became Hycroft Mining Corp.
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