Update on GRIP’s Responsible Mining Program – Fall 2018
In April, GRIP signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Freeport-McMoRan to resolve permitting issues related to reopening the Cobre Mine and the unacceptable delays in renewals for closure/closeout permits at all three of the company’s Grant County mines. In addition to resolving our speciﬁc concerns with the water quality discharge permit for Cobre, GRIP and Freeport agreed to meet quarterly to address issues with permit applications early on before a permit is drafted. We also agreed to confer on closure-closeout plans and reclamation cost estimates in order to more efﬁciently renew these outdated plans, permits and ﬁnancial assurance. GRIP and Freeport will also develop a collaborative process to identify ways to mitigate mining impacts to communities.
Ten years overdue, GRIP has been reviewing and commenting on the revised Chino Closure/Close-out Plan (CCP) that outlines Freeport-McMoRan’s plan for cleanup and reclamation of the Chino mine once it shuts down. GRIP’s advocacy pressured the NM Environment Department to force the company to release the updated plan and reclamation cost estimate using new requirements under the Copper Rule.
As a result of GRIP’s MOA with the company and after leaning on state regulators, the Chino closure/close-out plan, permit, and ﬁnancial assurance are on track to be completed by the end of 2019. GRIP mining consultant Jim Kuipers has facilitated a work group with company ofﬁcials, MMD and NMED to resolve issues with reclamation cost estimation, ensuring that adequate ﬁnancial assurance is in place as part of the permit renewal.
UK-based consultant Verisk Maplecroft was in Grant County in September conducting a Human Rights Impact Assessment of Freeport-McMoRan’s New Mexico Operations as part of the corporation’s commitment to the United Nation’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. GRIP submitted comments to the evaluators and facilitated interviews with community members to ensure that the voices of the people most impacted by Freeport’s operations were heard. The consultants will identify any problems with the company’s management systems and recommend ﬁxes to prevent negative impacts to employees, local communities and the environment.
State regulators he d hearings this fall on the Copper Flat Mine, located near Hillsboro. New Mexico Copper Corporation applied for a groundwater discharge permit from the NM Environment Department and a mining permit from the NM Mining and Minerals Division. GRIP and other advocates argued that the permit applications lacked adequate ﬁnancial assurance to cover cleanup and reclamation should the mine operator go bankrupt. At press time, decisions had yet to be made on the permits.
The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the Copper Rule in March, sanctioning groundwater sacrifice zones in contradiction of the state’s Water Quality Act. The Supreme Court’s decision brought to a close ﬁve years of appeals of the rule by GRIP, Amigos Bravos and Turner Ranch Properties as represented by the NM Environmental Law Center. The Court made clear that it was considering the Copper Rule on its face and not as it is applied in individual mine permits. We will continue to monitor how the NM Environment Department applies the rule to determine whether the Water Quality Act or other statutory provisions are violated.