View from the Trenches: Update on GRIP Responsible Mining Activities
By Sally Smith, Director of Responsible Mining
Monitoring operational and closure/reclamation permitting and related activities at the three Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (FMI) Grant County mines continues to be a very important part of GRIP’s work.
The first five-year renewal for the Closure/Closeout Permits for eventual closing of the Chino, Cobre and Tyrone mines has been under consideration by the state agencies for more than a year. Required by the New Mexico Mining Act and Water Quality Act, these permits prescribe reclamation activities to protect the environment and restore mine lands to a self-sustaining ecosystem. Permit renewal is delayed because reclamation and clean-up issues are still being worked out between the company and state. GRIP continues to be involved in this permitting process to assure that surface and groundwater quality and quantity and air quality are protected for future generations of Grant Countians.
At FMI’s Tyrone Mine, miners are still actively employed in ore extraction and leaching operations while finishing up a large portion of required reclamation which you can read about at the informational kiosk just off Highway 90 on Burro Mountain Road.
Chino Mine is not currently extracting ore but continues to leach stockpiles with sulfuric acid solution which is processed, like Tyrone ore, in Solvent Extraction/Electro-Winning Plants on site. Chino is now engaged in reclamation of its older tailings ponds which you can see from Highway 180 south of Hurley. These ponds are required to be re-graded to a 3-to-1 slope and covered with non-acid soils and seeded to meet NM Mining Act requirements.
GRIP is pleased to see the significant progress of reclamation work under the accelerated reclamation agreement between the state, FMI and GRIP. Likewise, we are heartened by the company’s use of innovative reclamation techniques. The Mining and Minerals Division and the NM Environment Department closely monitor the effectiveness of reclamation work. GRIP also participates in inspections of reclamation activities. Failures in cover performance would require additional cost and effort by the company.
FMI continues to plan for future mining at its Cobre Continental Mine which has been closed for more than a decade. GRIP is also involved in the review of expansion plans for all three mines.
After over 14 years, the Administrative Order on Consent (AOC), the state Superfund-like investigation and clean up of historic mine waste at Chino Mine, finally signed its first of several expected Records of Decision (RODs) requiring the remediation of most yards (approximately 500) in the town of Hurley. The ROD came after the completion of 16 months and an estimated $12 million of work scraping and replacing copper-laden soils out of residential yards and other properties to protect residents from potentially harmful metals concentrations from historic smelting operations. (see GetAGRIP Fall 2008 for more details)
Other units in the 55 square mile Investigative Area identified for study and clean up include Hanover and White Water Creeks that run through Bayard and Hurley to San Vicente Creek, the Smelter and Tailings areas near Hurley, and Lampbright Draw.
Participation in oversight of the process is open to the public at state-mandated Community Work Group (CWG) meetings held on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at the Bayard Community Center at 7 PM. (Call GRIP office for specifics.) The documents related to the AOC are located in the Bayard and Silver City Public Libraries and WNMU Miller Library. GRIP encourages citizens to attend these meeting.