Both Wendover and West Wendover will be compensated by a mining company for water contamination that may occur at an approved gold mine to be built 30 miles west of the border towns.
The Long Canyon Mine project, which received a green light from the Bureau of Land Management on April 7, is a proposed open-pit and cyanide leach operation that is expected to impact nearly 4,000 acres, including 1,700 acres of public land.
The cyanide leach process is a low-cost mining technique used to extract precious metals from ores that are especially difficult to process. The ores are soaked in cyanide, which bonds to precious metals and carries them into holding tanks. The solution is then further processed to collect precious metals such as gold and silver.
The leach process carries a substantial risk of groundwater contamination in the direct vicinity of the mine site — a risk that is acknowledged as a probable impact of the mining process in a BLM environmental impact statement on the project.
That risk caused the cities of Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada, to lodge complaints against the mine proposal.
The Johnson Springs complex, which supplies roughly a third of the water to a municipal water line shared by both Wendover and West Wendover, is located within the Long Canyon Mine project area. The cities’ leaders feared the mine’s proximity to the springs would cause the water source to be contaminated.
“We were very concerned,” said Wendover Mayor Mike Crawford. “We wanted to make sure the city’s water was safe.”
But those complaints have since been resolved with a settlement with Newmont Mining Company, he said.
Crawford said Newmont Mining agreed to pay off a $2.1 million balance on a USDA loan the cities used to tap the Johnson Springs complex. The mining company also agreed to build two new replacement wells to the cities’ specifications — well projects estimated to cost roughly $1 million each, and to pay each city an additional sum of $150,000.
“It was a good deal for us because we held out for a year. We didn’t let them just put a well in anywhere,” Crawford said. “We feel it was probably the best deal we could come up with.”