Nevada state panel upholds water permit for Mount Hope molybdenum mine

September 5, 2019

A three-member panel from the Nevada State Environmental Commission rejected a bid to rescind a water permit for the Mount Hope molybdenum mine in central Nevada. In its decision, the panel ruled that the state did not not err in analyzing the risks and hazards involved.

Great Basin Resource Watch, appealed the state’s decision to renew the permit issued in 2017 for Eureka Moly, a subsidiary of General Moly, arguing that the state used flawed analysis in approving the permit and raised concerns about that the project could degrade the ground water quality in the area due to the potential for acid runoff from waste rock, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

Commission Chairman Jim Gans said that while other pit lakes have been “disastrous,” he believes the state did its job in its analyses and wasn’t sure if more data collection would yield any new results.

The mine project was originally approved by the state in 2012 on 8,100 acres, about 25 miles northwest of Eureka. The proposed mine would operate for roughly 44 years, and would then be back-filled with water and turned into what is called a pit lake. The mine is expected to produce 40 million lbs/year of molybdenum for the first five years.

The company applied to renew its permit in 2017 after not making progress on the project. The state granted the renewal in 2018, which prompted Great Basin Resource Network to file the appeal.

Opponents of the project argued that there was not sufficient data for the state to approve the permit.

Scientists for the state also argued they conducted 4,000 tests on 1,800 rock samples from the area to look at the potential toxicity.

The project is expected to generate roughly 1.7 billion tons of waste rock. Of that, the state said about 450 million tons, or about 26 percent, is considered potential acid-generating material. That material would be kept at a separate site and positioned to avoid any contact with two nearby springs.

Christine Olson, an environmental scientist with the Bureau of Mining Regulation and Reclamation, testified that there is no risk for the area ground water to be polluted from the remnants of the mine because it would be a terminal pit lake, meaning that water would only be able to flow into the lake, but not out of it.

 

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