Hycroft Mining Corp. is nearing final U.S. Bureau of Land Management approval for an expansion project at the Hycroft Mine that is back in operation 55 miles west of Winnemucca after a shutdown in 2015.
The BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have released a final environmental impact statement for the proposed expansion, but the BLM’s record of decision is still to come.
“We restarted the mine earlier this year and have been ramping up slowly. The main goal of this slow restart is to demonstrate an oxidation process that we developed for sulfide material in a heap leach setting,” said Tracey Thom, vice president of environmental and corporate affairs for Hycroft Mining.
“We currently have about 120 employed at the mine, as well as some contractors,” she said in a Sept. 10 email.
Mark Hall, field manager for the BLM’s Black Rock Field Office, said all the current work at Hycroft is based on the previously approved plan of operations and plan modifications the BLM approved.
According to the BLM, Hycroft is expected to employ 515 workers when in full operation, after the expansion approval that would extend the mine life through 2039 and ore processing to 2041.
Allied Nevada Corp. went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2015, stopped mining and laid off 230 workers. The Elko Daily Free Press reported after the layoffs roughly 135 employees were temporarily keeping their jobs while gold processing continued.
The company emerged from bankruptcy on Oct. 22, 2015.
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“On emergence from bankruptcy proceedings, we changed the name of the company to Hycroft Mining Corp. to reflect the fact that Hycroft was our primary focus,” Thom said.
Subsidiary Hycroft Resources and Development Inc. operates the gold and silver mine in Humboldt and Pershing counties.
Under approved expansion plans the company will extend the boundary to the east, construct a new tailings facility and associated haul road, construct a new heap leach facility, expand the Brimstone open pit below the groundwater table, construct dewatering facilities for Brimstone, expand a waste rock facility and expand haul roads.
The Federal Register also states that the plan calls for rerouting Rosebud Road, as well as other expansion activities, such as modifying the milling operation to process ore in an ambient oxidation and leaching process, construction of an oxygen plant, constructing stormwater diversions and installing culverts.
The joint EIS also looks at Hycroft’s proposal to disturb golden eagles and their habitat as part of the project. The company sought to remove inactive eagle nests and requested a 30-year incidental take permit for golden eagles under the Eagle Act. The permit would allow the loss of up to three golden eagle breeding territories.
The document states that although the permit is for 30 years, the wildlife agency will conduct permit reviews at five-year intervals to make any needed adjustments. Hycroft Resources will be required to implement all best-management practices to avoid and minimize take of golden eagles and to mitigate the impacts of the loss of nesting territories by enhancing eagle protections elsewhere.
According to the Federal Register, the BLM selected an alternative to the original proposed action, reducing acreage. The final EIS allows an increase of the project boundary to 20,063 acres from 14,753 acres. The original proposal called for 27,835 acres in the project boundary.
The Winnemucca BLM District is over the expansion project. The draft EIS process started in late 2014, prior to the bankruptcy. The record of decision can’t be released until 30 days after the Sept. 6 publication of availability of the final EIS.
The Federal Register states that there were nine public comment letters received from May 17 through July 14 of this year, after the draft EIS was released. Concerns included impacts to air quality, cultural resources, environmental justice, Native American religious concerns, rangeland management, recreation, soils, visual resources, hazardous and solid wastes, water resources, vegetation and wildlife.
Taylor Grysen is the BLM’s Hycroft project manager out of the Black Rock Field Office in Winnemucca. The BLM’s Winnemucca office can be reached at 775-623-1500. Heather Beeler is the Fish and Wildlife project manager for the Hycroft project out of Sacramento, phone 916-414-6651. Project information is online at https://go.usa.gov/xyu54.