The Mining and Minerals Division will hold a hybrid public hearing (both in person and virtually) on Tuesday, August 16th at 5 pm at the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center (next to Ace Hardware) on Freeport-McMoRan’s proposed new open pit at the Tyrone Mine. Public Notice
The public hearing on the Emma Expansion Project will take public comment on Freeport’s application for a permit under the New Mexico Mining Act and will cover mining operations and reclamation of the new pit.
Public comment will be accepted at the meeting in person or online via WebEx. You can access the WebEx link HERE.
Located on the southeast side of Tyrone just to the west of Highway 90, the Emma Project will cover approximately 337 acres of disturbance, including construction of an open pit 550 – 600 feet deep.
The project will require abandonment of the existing Tyrone-Thompson Road and development of a new road to access the Gila National Forest and the Burro Mountain Homestead. Additionally, a new haul road within the mine site will be built to transport ore from the open pit to leach stockpiles at the Tyrone Mine and waste rock to new and existing waste rock stockpiles at Emma and Tyrone. With a 5 – 6-year mine plan, the project is estimated to add 3 to 5 years of mine life to Tyrone’s operation.
During operations, the open pit will need to be dewatered since it will extend 200 feet below groundwater. The company says that the resulting cone of depression won’t extend to residential wells. However, its groundwater modeling does not incorporate sufficient groundwater monitoring data, consider the extensive fracturing of the underlying rock, or communicate the high degree of uncertainty in the results. In response to public and agency comments, the company is now proposing to add five new groundwater monitoring wells to better characterize the groundwater in the vicinity of the proposed open pit.
At closure, a pit lake will form that will exceed state water quality standards, posing a threat to wildlife. Freeport has proposed to remove the water from the pit lake, pumping it to the adjacent Tyrone Mine for process water or treatment.
GRIP and local residents requested that the Mining and Minerals Division hold a public hearing on the project. The request was granted, and the hearing will be held August 16, 2022 at 5 pm. The hearing will take place in person at the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center on Highway 180 (next to Ace Hardware) and online on WebEx.
Freeport-McMoRan held a public meeting in June to obtain public input on the re-routing of the Tyrone-Thompson Road around the proposed new open pit. The new road will be moved approximately 1 mile to the south of its current location and will be 3 miles long, requiring an extra three to four minutes to drive around the Emma operations. The Grant County Commission requested that Freeport obtain additional public input on the proposal as it develops its plans with the NM Department of Transportation and the Grant County Planning Department. The company is responding to the concerns and suggestions of Burro Mountain Homestead residents who will be most affected by the re-route. Once the necessary permits are obtained, Freeport hopes to have the new road constructed by the fourth quarter of 2022.
Freeport has submitted its water rights application to change the point of diversion for 116 acre-feet per year from an existing water right to the proposed Emma pit. This information will inform the Office of the State Engineer if local groundwater wells in the vicinity of the proposed pit could be impaired by pit dewatering.
The NM Environment Department (NMED) is working on a renewal and modification to one of the Tyrone Mine’s discharge permits, DP-396, for the Emma project. Although Freeport’s application was deemed administratively complete in February, the agency assessed that it is “technically deficient” under the Copper Mine Rule and has requested additional information. NMED can’t complete its technical evaluation of the permit application until Freeport can submit additional information to the agency.
The application and supporting documents for the proposed Emma project, including hydrogeology, noise, lighting, view shed, and wildlife are available on the Mining and Minerals Division website.