Permitting at the Copper Flat Mine began in June 2010. The Company is focused on obtaining its required permits and completing environmental studies. Permitting and reporting milestones achieved to date include:
- Baseline Data Report was submitted in 2012 followed by supplemental studies in 2013. Studies included over a year of data collection on wildlife, vegetation, soils, surface water, ground water, cultural resources and air quality among others, with additional surveys conducted in 2013 and 2015. More studies are planned for 2016 in response to comments from state agencies.
- An aquifer test was completed to provide accurate site-secific data for groundwater modeling in December 2012. The aquifer test collected data on aquifer response to pumping water from two Production Wells in eight observation wells in the area, included four wells along Las Animas Creek.
- The computer program used for the groundwater model is a version of the United States Geological Survey’s Modular Three-Dimensional Finite Difference Ground-Water Flow Model MODFLOW, was developed for the area and calibrated to match physical data collected in the aquifer test. .
- The groundwater model was used to create predictions of the impact of mine operations on the aquifers in the area and submitted for use in the BLM’s analyses.
- Geochemistry reports and modeling includes significant testing of site materials from 2010-2013.
- Cultural Resources Report was completed to document 100% pedestrian survey-consultation with state and federal agencies.
New Mexico State Permitting
- Baseline Data Reports have been submitted to the Mining and Minerals Division as part of the Permit Application Package for a new Mine Permit.
- Application was made to the New Mexico Environment Department Air Quality Bureau and an Air Quality permit was issued by the New Mexico Environment Department in June 2013.
- As part of Stage I Abatement Plan requirements, four quarters of data were collected in 2013 and reported for review by the New Mexico Environment Department.
- A revised Discharge Permit Application was completed and submitted to the NMED on December 11, 2015. The NMED determined the permit application to be administratively complete and the Technical Review Period was started on December 22, 2015.
- Work is ongoing on a Revised Mine Operation and Reclamation Plan to be submitted to the Mining and Minerals Division once it is complete.
- A proposed Mine Plan of Operation was submitted to the BLM in 2010 and revised in 2011 and in response the BLM kicked off an evaluation of the propoed mine plan impacts via development of an Environmental Impact Statement.
- Scoping meetings were held in early 2012 and collected baseline data have been assembled by the BLM’s EIS Contractor to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
- The BLM’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement was published on November 25, 2015, opening a public comment period which will end on March 4, 2016.
- BLM held public meetings to solicit comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in Hillsboro and Truth or Consequences in December of 2015.
- Consulting Parties have been assembled by the BLM, including the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office and work is in process to draft a Programmatic Agreement regarding resolution of adverse effects to historic properties at the mine site in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
- The BLM is evaluating the likelihood and severity of possible effects to Federally-listed compliance with Section 7 requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
In the United States, federal and state laws ensure mine operations are conducted responsibly. The Company is committed to achieving and exceeding state and federal standards for data collection, regulatory compliance, public involvement and environmental protection.
Prior to mining operations at Copper Flat, the Company must first complete rigorous environmental studies. The Company must also obtain operational and environmental permits from the authorities in order to proceed. Our stakeholders (the public, community leaders and government officials) are invited at multiple stages to participate in the permitting and evaluation processes of the mine.
The mine is located on a combination of federal, state and private lands. In order to approve the use of the federal lands and in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being developed by an independent third party. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the lead federal agency for the NEPA process in coordination with a number of state agencies that regulate mining and protect natural resources. The EIS process is currently underway with completion expected in late 2016.
The public has helped shape the EIS evaluation by providing comments during initial local public meetings (called “scoping meetings”). The public is invited to continue their involvement in the NEPA process as mine development proceeds. Following publication of the draft EIS on November 25, 2015, the BLM hosted two public meetings in Hillsboro and Truth or Consequences to gather feedback on the DEIS.
Public interests are also protected through a financial assurance bond, which is required by state and federal agencies: The New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division (MMD), the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), and BLM. One bond is held by the MMD. In the event that the Company was unable to properly reclaim the land following mining, the MMD, NMED, or BLM, as applicable, would be able to oversee and finance land reclamation.
In addition to the EIS, the following permitting processes are underway:
- The MMD will evaluate data supplied by the Company, host a public hearing, and collect financial assurance (discussed above) prior to issuing a Mine Permit.
- The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), responsible for the protection of air quality, surface water and groundwater, is reviewing data provided by the Company. The NMED will give the MMD an opinion on how these resources will be protected throughout operation prior to issuance of the MMD Mine Permit.
- Mandatory NMED permits include an Air Quality Permit and Groundwater Discharge Permit.
- The Office of the State Engineer will review the data and request completion of a Dam Safety Permit.
- The Office of the State Engineer will also be responsible for granting a permit to appropriate water that will be necessary for mine operation.
- Various other permits relating to exploration, building construction, storage and use of explosives, solid and liquid waste, and fuel will also be required.
- Copper Flat is planned as a zero discharge facility. As such it will not require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the EPA, who govern surface water discharges.
Below is a Permitting Schedule comprised of the studies and permits required: