Proposed developments for the Mineral Ridge Mine in Esmeralda County could add 18 years to the mine life and increase opportunities to extract additional gold and other metals.

Elko-based Mineral Ridge Gold LLC requested an amendment to its plan of operations and reclamation permit for the open pit heap leach mine, located about 5 miles northwest of Silver Peak in Esmeralda County.

The proposed project is on Bureau of Land Management and private lands, and the BLM published an environmental assessment March 6. The EA can be viewed at , and public comments can be submitted until April 5.

The Custer Amendment would allow the construction of an ore storage pad and a water treatment plant, and the development of three pits and associated underground workings. MRG also requests the ability to expand existing leach pad and conversion to a dry-stack tailings storage facility; and modifications to existing waste rock dumps, crushing facilities, pits and pit backfill. Plan of operations boundaries would expand by 1,396 acres while increasing the authorized disturbance area by 17 acres, or 2 percent.

The company extended the area’s history of intermittent mining, which began in about 1865, when it started at the site in 2011. Work began with the crushing of oversized ore left on the pad by the previous owners, the EA reports, and mining new ore kicked off in May 2011. Commercial production began in January 2012, according to Scorpio Gold Corp., which owns 70 percent of the Mineral Ridge Mine, with joint venture partner Elevon LLC controlling the remaining 30 percent.

Historically, the mine produced 575,000 ounces of gold from open pit and underground operations, according to the EA. Total production in 2017 totaled 19,045 ounces of gold and 10,203 ounces of silver, according to the 2017 year-end report from Scorpio Gold.

Mining was suspended in early November 2017 because of higher strip ratios and limited pad capacity, Scorpio Gold reported, but diminishing gold recoveries continued from the leach pads.

Scorpio Gold is a Canada-based gold producer that also owns 100 percent interest in the Goldwedge property in Manhattan, Nevada, which is on care and maintenance.