By Page and Hite
A recent proposal by Radius Gold, a Canadian mining company, to explore mining potential in Mono county has local conservation groups up in arms.
The proposal aims to drill for gold and silver in Bodie Hills with possible negative effects on the nearby Dry Lakes plateau and Rough Creek drainage. According to Jora Fogg of Friends of the Inyo, “Rough Creek, a major tributary to the Walker River, is directly adjacent to the drilling site. The area contains a rock layer known as Cinnabar which contains Sulfate, an acid producing compound, so we are concerned there could be a significant risk of acid mine drainage”
The Radius Gold company, headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, filed a pre-application on July 20 with the Mono County Community Development Department for a mineral exploration project, “to determine if there are valuable minerals on State Lease Land”.
The pre-application has the possibility of carrying a stimulus to Inyo county. Doug Murray, a field geologist for Radius Gold, said that they try to keep a small crew to reduce impact, and all non-specialized work will be sourced locally. According to the application, “Drill crews will consist of two to four man crews, with drill operations consisting of two, 12 hour shifts per day.”
In 2009, Cougar Gold LLC spent $7 million on exploratory work to mine in the Bodie Hills area. They decided not to move forward with additional work (full-scale mining efforts) until Bodie Hills was released from Wilderness Study Area (WSA) status. Currently, Bodie Hills remains classified as a Wilderness Study Area.
When asked why their project was different, Murray pointed to money and resources. “We’re helicopter based and we fly things (equipment) in. This is intended to keep impact at minimum.” He also explained that Radius is willing to spend more money if it means reducing environmental impact.
This won’t stop Friends of the Inyo. As Jora Fogg’s update reads, “we have fought this battle before and won with our community coming together in opposition” and in an email to the Sheet, Fogg wrote, “Bodie has an incredibly rich historical legacy of mining that we want to honor and respect as part of our heritage. However, today’s modern industry mining is extremely destructive to the environment exemplified by cases all over the western United States”
The program proposed by Radius involves flying a drill to nine separate sites and drilling holes to an average of 1,000 ft. Radius amounts the “disturbance” of the project to “approximately 0.1 acre per drill site for a total disturbance of 0.9 acre”. Radius also cites historic mining activity in the area and notes that “The parcel is not suitable for agriculture”.
Radius’ application also notes that, “it is unknown if there are cultural sites or sensitive biological resources within the parcel”. According to Fogg, “Details will come,” and right now it’s all speculation.
Radius states that the water for the project will either be sourced locally or pumped from the Humboldt Pit Lake near Aurora, Nevada, on lands owned by the Hecla Mining Company.
The Great Basin Resource Watch details the hazards of pit lakes in Nevada, citing the example of the Lone Tree Mine in Humboldt County which has the potential to remain toxic for hundreds of years. There are no standards for pit lake waters in Nevada, says the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.