A proposed gold mining project in southwestern Tooele County has the Bureau of Land Management seeking public input on the mine’s potential impacts. The proposed mine, which will be called the Kiewit Mine Project, is located in Clifton Hills, which is about four miles west of Gold Hill. It is on approximately 105 acres of public and private land owned by the BLM, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, the Moeller Family Trust, and Alpinebased Clifton Mining Company.
The project area is also located in the historic Clifton-Gold Hill Mining District, which is known for deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, arsenic and tungsten. The historic district has been subject to intermittent and sporadic mineral exploration and mining activity since the late 1860s.
The last time activity occurred in the area was between 2004 and 2005 when Ontario, Canada-based Dumont Nickel, Inc. conducted a mineral exploration project.
The company looking to mine the area is Spokane, Wash.-based Desert Hawk Gold Corporation. Rick Havenstrite, president of Desert Hawk, said his company has been working on gaining access to the area for about four years.
“Our company has put in $5 million to get it to this stage,” he said. “All permits have been received except for the one from the BLM. We have already gone through five public comment periods and have never gotten a single negative public comment. We have gotten about 25 letters of support.”
Havenstrite expects to begin operations as soon as the BLM permit is given to the company. The Kiewit project covers the existing Herat Mine, which is a small operation acquired by Desert Hawk in 2010 from Dumont Nickel Inc.
“We operated that in 2010, but we ran out of permits,” he said. “In 2010, we produced copper, silver, gold and tungsten and sold all four. The plan is to ultimately get back to doing that again. We were operating under a small mine permit, but it wasn’t a large enough area to do anything commercially. This permit [from the BLM] will allow the expansion of that area.”
For the first two years of the project, the mine is expected to produce two million tons of ore and three million tons of waste rock through drilling, blasting and digging a 16.5-acre pit to a depth of 160 feet, according to the BLM’s environmental assessment.
“We’ll be trying to produce 20,000 ounces of gold each year and about 20,000 ounces of silver each year,” Havenstrite said. The mine is expected to yield oxidized silver and gold that would be processed on a 17-acre cyanide heap-leach pad on private land.
Crushed ore will be piled on the heap-leach pad and soaked with up to 100,000 gallons of cyanide solution — a toxic compound made of carbon and nitrogen that bonds with precious metals as it filters through the ore — each day. After this process, the solution will be gathered in a 61,000-square-foot pond that could fill to a depth of 16 feet, according to the environmental assessment.
Desert Hawk plans to complete the mining project in six years, followed by a three-year reclamation program. Environmental impacts to the area were determined by the BLM. Several minor, long-term impacts were determined.
When it comes to air quality, dust is the only contaminant of concern that would be emitted above Department of Air Quality thresholds. Given the isolated location, the BLM determined that humans would not be affected. However, any blasting in the area will have to be completed between noon and 5 p.m. to decrease the effects.
Disturbances associated with mining and processing activities would affect about 47 acres of private lands and would remove 38 acres of BLM-administered land from public access and recreation during mining activities, according to the environmental assessment. Access to the active mine area will be gated and warning signs around the area will be installed.
The impact to animals, such as livestock and migratory birds, would be long-term, according to the assessment. The proposed project would involve the long-term loss of vegetation and breeding habitat on the project area. However, these losses are expected to have little effect on local bird populations based on the amount of similar suitable foraging and breeding habitat in the surrounding area. Project noise and dust may also deter birds from the area.
Livestock could wander into the mine operations area, as it would not be fenced, therefore, grazing permittees may have to more actively manage their animals in that area so as to prevent them from wandering onto the mine site, according to the assessment.
There are no water sources near the mining area except for the dry Rodenhouse Wash, so only surface water will be affected, according to the assessment. However, surface water will not be used for the project, so it would happen inadvertently. Any spills of fuels or cyanide in the process area will be protected by a barrier, followed by the project area’s settlement pond where the chemicals will be neutralized and removed.
The public has until March 12 to submit comments on the project to the BLM. Please reference “Kiewit Mine Project EA” when submitting comments. Written comments may be sent to Bureau of Land Management, Salt Lake Field Office, 2370 South 2300 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84119, or firstname.lastname@example.org. email@example.com