The Bureau of Land Management announced this week that it has begun the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed expansion of the Coeur Rochester and Packard Mines near Lovelock in Pershing County.
A 30-day public scoping period began March 7.
The BLM will hold open houses in Winnemucca and Lovelock to hear public input and comments on the proposed project. There will be an open house March 19 from 5-7 p.m. at the Winnemucca Convention Center, 50 West Winnemucca Blvd., and March 21 from 5-7 p.m. in the Seven Troughs Room of the Lovelock Community Center, 820 6th St.
If approved, the Coeur Rochester expansion would begin in 2020. The silver and gold mine has been in production since 1986, and today employs about 300 people. The expansion project would increase production and allow operations to continue into the mid-2030s.
“It will be our largest expansion so far,” Coeur Rochester Human Resources Manager Mike Springfield told the Elko Daily Free Press in October.
In 2018, the Rochester mine produced 5 million ounces of silver and 54,388 ounces of gold, both up 7 percent from 2017.
The mine is currently authorized to disturb up to 2,203 acres — approximately 165 acres of private land and 2036 acres of public land. The proposal would increase disturbance by approximately 2,815 acres, 2,380 acres of which is public land.
The proposed project would expand mining in both of the current pits – Rochester and Packard. The company plans to move, relocate, or expand heap leach pads, waste rock dumps, haul roads, access roads, water pipelines and processing facilities.
A BLM press release said that with the proposed expansion, mining of the Rochester Pit would extend below groundwater and require dewatering, resulting in a permanent pit lake after closure. Additional potentially acid generating material would be excavated and would be processed as ore or stored according to a Waste Rock Storage Plan.
The plan would also necessitate an upgrade in power distribution lines and a substation. With the proposed expansion, production would continue until around 2033, followed by mine closure and reclamation.
The public scoping process is held to help determine relevant issues that will influence the scope of the environmental analysis, including alternatives, and guide the process for developing the EIS.
At this point, the BLM has identified several preliminary issues: dewatering during mining and the formation of a pit lake after completion of mining activities; potentially acid generating material excavated during mining and ensuring that there is no degradation of state waters undue or unnecessary degradation of public lands; potential impacts to visual resources; potential impacts to wildlife habitat, including greater sage-grouse and other sensitive species; and potential impacts to the Rochester Historic Mining District.
The public is invited to submit comments during the 30-day public scoping period that will end April 8. All written comments should be addressed to Kathleen Rehberg, project lead.