The Utah Bureau of Land Management has signed off on a 105-acre open pit mine just four miles southeast of Gold Hill.
The mine, dubbed the Kiewit Mine Project by Spokane, Wash. based developer Desert Hawk Gold Corp., is expected to extract more than 1 million tons of gold and silver ores per year via a cyanide solution wash that will leach the metals from the surrounding rock.
With the BLM’s newly-granted approval, the project now enters a 30-day waiting period to give opponents of the mine an opportunity to appeal the decision.
After the appeal process, mining at the Kiewit site cannot begin until Desert Hawk obtains a bond intended to protect the BLM’s interests on the 43 acres of federal land that will be disturbed by the project, said Kevin Oliver, west desert district manager for the BLM.
However, if no one appeals the decision, Desert Hawk could move forward with the operation within a few months, he said. The mine project is expected to occupy the site for an estimated nine years, though there is no deadline on the approved Environmental Assessment.
Exploratory drilling for the mine project began in 2004, according to the project’s 230-page environmental assessment. The BLM spent has spent the last two years conducting a thorough analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the project, Oliver said.
The approved Environmental Assessment calls for numerous safe-guards against damage to the environment, requiring, among other things, a 12-inch thick liner under the pad where ores will be soaked with 100,000 gallons of cyanide solution per day. Precious metals bond to the cyanide solution, which will run into a holding tank containing activated carbon. Gold and silver will then cling to the carbon, which will be moved off-site for processing.
“This is a common mining process in Nevada, but it hasn’t been used too much in Utah,” Oliver said.
The analysis process included an extensive comment and response period, Oliver said, and many parts of the proposal were altered on behalf of requests from the public.
However, not all those who commented on the project feel their voices were heard.
Ed Naranjo, tribal administrator for the Confederate Tribes of the Goshute Indian Reservation at Ibapah, said that although the BLM initially responded to their objections to the mine, they did not know the status of the Environmental Assessment until after it was approved last week.
“There has been a lack of communication with the BLM,” he said.
Naranjo referred the Transcript-Bulletin to the tribes’ legal council for further comment. However, attempts to reach attorneys by press time were unsuccessful.