Nevada Gold Mines is expecting the proposed underground Goldrush mine to create “hundreds of new jobs,” said NGM’s Joel Donalson, who is on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s permitting team for the project.
He said NGM estimates Goldrush will provide 495 jobs during construction and 570 jobs when in operation, along with 364 indirect jobs. He also said Goldrush will use current facilities at the Cortez Mine, such as the shops, offices, warehouses and roads to save new disturbance.
Gold ore from Goldrush will be processed at NGM’s Carlin site. Ore will be trucked to the processing facilities there.
The project 30 miles south of Beowawe in Eureka and Lander counties already has twin declines for underground exploration and test production, but NGM cannot mine commercially until the BLM approves the project.
Donalson, who is the head of permitting for Nevada mines and ranches for NGM, said the twin declines were started in 2017.
A draft environmental impact statement on the Goldrush underground mine project may be published in December, Jess Harvey, public affairs specialist for the BLM’s Battle Mountain District, said as the BLM began the EIS process with virtual scoping meetings Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 to outline the project for initial comments.
The BLM is shooting for completing the review process and issuing a record of decision within 12 months, but the rule during the Trump years requiring the one-year time frame is no longer in place, he said.
“We are not held to 12 months,” Harvey said.
He said a method developed by the district manager at Battle Mountain, Doug Furtado, tries to keep the process at roughly a year’s time, but “that’s not a guarantee.” He said the district’s process takes “no shortcuts but there is a lot of preplanning.”
He said a lot of factors play into the timing, including public comments and baseline reports.
With the change in administration, the publication in the Federal Register that kicked off the permitting process was delayed until recently, but Harvey said that provided more time for preplanning.
If Goldrush is approved, the mine life is expected to be 24 years.
In Barrick Gold Corp.’s recent earnings webinar, Catherine Raw, chief operating officer for North America, said that once the BLM issues a record of decision “decline exploration allows us to ramp up quickly.”
Barrick estimated in its second-quarter earnings report that final Goldrush approval would come in the fourth quarter of next year.
Barrick’s recently completed feasibility study for Goldrush called the project world class, and the company’s president and chief executive officer, Mark Bristow, reported the estimated initial capital outlay for developing Goldrush is now expected to be a little lower than the earlier estimate of roughly $1 billion.
Barrick is the operator for Nevada Gold Mines, which is a joint venture with Newmont Corp. Barrick holds 61.5% of NGM; Newmont, 38.5%.
Once permitted, Goldrush is expected to dewater roughly 4,500 gallons per minute to keep the mine dry, Donalson said. The site will include dewatering wells and a water pipeline, and water will go to rapid infiltration basins.
The project also will involve vent raises, a backfill plant, crusher, conveyor, shotcrete plant, stockpile sites and a multi-use shop, he said in the virtual presentation.
NGM’s plans for Goldrush would involve roughly 1,717 acres of new disturbance and 1,036 acres of existing and already authorized disturbance. Areas of concern that the BLM study will cover include impacts to sage grouse habitat and golden eagles and raptors.
Cooperating agencies for the EIS include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which the BLM will be working with to obtain a take permit for the golden eagles, said Kristi Schaff, Goldrush project manager for contractor Stantec hired to work on the EIS. She said she doesn’t have the details yet, but “stay tuned for the draft EIS.”
According to the USFW, the Endangered Species Act prohibits the “take” of listed species through direct hard or habitat destruction, but the agency can issue permits for legal activities that could result in the “incidental” taking.
Such permits require conservation plans to mitigate harm to the impacted species during a proposed project, the USFW states.
Schaff said that work on golden eagles at Cortez has been ongoing for several years, including aerial surveys to document nests and nest activity.
Goldrush’s project area also will come close to sage grouse leks, both active and inactive, so the EIS will look at potential impacts, she said.
The EIS requires many baseline studies beyond the sage grouse and golden eagle, and Schaff said some of them have been done already, going back to the 1990s. Cortez Mine has grown over the years to include both open pit and underground mining, and those projects required studies.
She said the traffic study was updated in 2020, and the monitoring of springs and seeps has been ongoing. A groundwater study also was updated in 2020 and includes all current dewatering at Cortez.
“All this baseline data will be used throughout the EIS process,” Schaff said.
The BLM also confirmed that Native American tribes have been consulted about Goldrush, including the Western Shoshone’s Elko and Battle Mountain bands and the Duckwater tribe, as well as the Yumba Tribe. There also have been site visits for the tribes.
The virtual scoping meetings were a chance for listeners to learn more about Goldrush and ask questions, but anyone wishing to make formal comment to the BLM is asked to send letters to Scott Distel, BLM project manager, 50 Bastian Road, Battle Mountain, NV 89820 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.