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Commissioners support Bald Mountain expansion

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Bald Mountain Mine expansion map

The proposed Juniper expansion project at the Bald Mountain Mine will increase the mine’s footprint by about 3,900 acres and is expected to extend the life of the mine to around 2040.

With the Bureau of Land Management currently accepting public comments on the proposed Juniper expansion project at the Bald Mountain Mine, the Elko County commissioners this week expressed enthusiastic support for the mine and its proposed expansion.

The mine, which is owned by Kinross Gold Corp., is about 60 miles southeast of Elko and 60 miles northwest of Ely. The mine is in White Pine County, a little south of the Elko County line and a little east of the Eureka County line.

“Next time could you move the ore body just slightly north?” Elko County Commissioner Jon Karr joked.

Matthew Miller, corporate social responsibility specialist for the mine, told commissioners that Bald Mountain employs about 605 people, and about 80% of the workforce lives in Elko County. The mine also employs contractors.

The mine pays about $81.2 million in yearly wages and benefits, and the total economic output from the mine is about $632.7 million. The mine pays about $38.5 million in public taxes annually, with about $9.2 million of that benefitting the local area.

About 54% of the direct “benefit footprint” from the mine is spent in the local area, according to Miller’s presentation to the county commission.

Some of the ways Bald Mountain has recently been involved in the community, Miller said, have included supporting the Great Basin Children’s Advocacy Center and providing welding projects to local high schools. Miller said the mine plans to diversify and increase its community involvement in the years ahead.

Since Kinross acquired Bald Mountain from Barrick Gold in 2016, the mine has produced 129,787,800 gold equivalent ounces, Miller said. The current estimated life of the mine calls for continuing mining to the fourth quarter of 2023.

“The whole goal of the Juniper Project is to extend Bald Mountain’s life of mine,” said Kyle Hawkins, an environmental engineer at Bald Mountain.

The expansion project will extend the life of the mine at least 11 years, to 2035, and could keep the mine going to 2040, Hawkins said.

The Juniper Project will increase the mine’s footprint by about 3,900 acres, a 27% increase over the current authorized footprint. The project includes pit development and expansions, underground mine development, road development and modifications, support facilities and rock disposal areas.

“It’s mostly centered around our existing pits,” Hawkins said.

The old White Pine Mine, which was mined in the 1990s and is a little north of currently mined areas, will be named the Royale Area and will be mined again as part of the Juniper Project, Hawkins said.

The key outcomes of the Juniper expansion project, Hawkins said, will include maintaining open areas for the mule deer corridor, minimizing effects on wildlife habitat, limiting visual effects, minimizing disturbance in key resource areas, implementing concurrent reclamation commitments, and meeting Nevada water quality requirements.

The Elko County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution expressing their support for Bald Mountain’s Juniper Project.

“I appreciate the economic value and partnership that you guys have not only in White Pine County, but there’s no question that there’s an economic impact to Elko County,” Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi said. “We appreciate that, and we appreciate the corporate stewardship.”

Karr commented that he anticipates during the public comment period environmental groups will probably express opposition to the expansion project.

“It’s sad they don’t understand if they’re not mining here in America with the environmental policies that we have in place, then you can get companies out of China or somewhere else, doing it in Africa or wherever, and there is no environmental standard,” Karr said. “So it’s disappointing that you probably are going to run into environmental groups that will try to prohibit this, even though they don’t know what they’re talking about. But I’m a hundred percent for it, and whatever we can do to support it as well.”

The commissioners also approved a scoping comment written by Elko County Natural Resources Director Curtis Moore on the proposed Environmental Impact Statement.

Moore said his draft scoping comment for the county includes the standard environmental information, and he also puts an emphasis on a socioeconomic analysis of the project.

“Because a lot of times the EIS gives kind of short shrift to that, and I think it’s really important to capture the economic impacts of these projects.” Moore said.

The public comment period for the Juniper Project runs through May 2. For more information, go to https://go.usa.gov/xAm2g.

After the public scoping period is complete, the BLM will develop a Draft EIS and then a Final EIS for the expansion project before issuing a Record of Decision. Hawkins said the whole process is expected to take about a year.

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