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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• Comments needed for Washington’s Buckhorn Mountain
Public comments can be submitted through May 17, 2004, on Crown Resources’ Buckhorn Mountain Project located near the town of Chesaw, Washington.

Crown Resources, which originally discovered the gold deposit, acquired 100% of the development rights when Battle Mountain Gold withdrew its permit application in 2000. Battle Mountain spent almost $6 million on the project.

Battle Mountain faced opposition to its plans of an open-pit operation, previously known as the Crown Jewel Project. Crown Resources has determined the deposit can be worked successfully as an underground mine.

Crown Resources initially sought to construct a mill on the site, but has since decided to truck the ore less than fifty miles to an established mill near Republic, Washington.

Local commissioner Mary Lou Peterson expressed her support for the mine: “Since they have revised the plan to where they are going underground and are trucking the ore to Republic by a revised route that won’t disturb people where they live, there is no reason why we should not have 100 jobs in our county,” said Peterson. “Now we need people to send in good comments about why the mine should go through. We don’t want the comments to come only from the ones who try to stop everything and shut everything down. They have made a tremendous effort so this mine can go forward.”

Comments should be directed to Derek Sandison, Department of Ecology, 15 W Yakima Ave, Suite 200, Yakima, WA 98902. Comments may also be emailed to: dsan461@ecy.wa.gov

Project information can be viewed online at: www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/buckhornmountain/

• Rep. Gibbons goes to bat for Nevada
Representative Jim Gibbons (R-Nevada) has proposed an extra $2.3 million for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2005 budget to create 11 new positions to speed the review of mining claims and permits for the state of Nevada.

“Nevada is home to over half of all this nation’s mining claims, yet BLM officials in our state have inadequate funding and not enough staff to process these claims,” said Gibbons.

BLM has 120,000 mining claims pending in Nevada, and 20,000 of those were filed last year, said BLM spokeswoman Jo Simpson.

Russ Fields, president of the Nevada Mining Association in Reno, said he thinks speeding the permit process is long overdue. Mining companies have complained about delays of a decade or more.

“We’re in a situation now with gold mining, the industry is growing, there’s a lot more exploration activity, we’re looking at mines to do expansions and they can’t get started until the BLM goes through the permitting process,” Fields said.

Connie Holmes, an economist for the National Mining Association in Washington, D.C. , said permit delays threaten to drive mining companies overseas.

“We need policies that turn the US from the least attractive location for investment to the most attractive location,” she said at a congressional hearing late last month.

• More land acquisition on the way?
House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-California) and Secretary of Interior Gale Norton have consistently stated that the amount of land under federal control is too large and should not be expanded. Despite this, several legislators continue to introduce new bills to increase land acquisitions in the name of conservation.

A new bill, sponsored by Representative George Miller (D-California) and House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), would cost $3.125 billion each year for 20 years to fund Land and Water Conservation Fund grants and land acquisitions, wildlife conservation grants, historic preservation and similar activities.

Legislators may try to attach the new bill to other legislation because it is doubtful that Pombo would allow the bill to pass through the House Resources Committee. The bill has not yet been officially introduced so it doesn’t have an assigned number at press time.

• IBLA rules in favor of miner
The Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) ruled the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was in error when it tried to increase the lease amount for a phosphate mine.

In Melvin E. Leslie (161 IBLA 110, March 17, 2004), BLM raised the appellant’s lease from $2,207 to $6,621 after the new lease period of 20 years began. Under BLM rules, stated IBLA Administrative Judge T. Britt Price, the appellant must be notified of the increase prior to the expiration of the old lease. Increases are allowed after the beginning of a new lease when dealing with coal, but this case did not involve coal.

Miners would not be able to adequately evaluate the cost of a particular project if BLM can increase lease amounts during the term of the lease.

Copies of IBLA decisions are free up to 50 pages, and 10 cents per page thereafter. Visit www.doi.gov and click on EFOIA or phone (703) 235-3799 to obtain a copy.

• Comment on critical habitat proposed in the Mojave Desert
The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to designate critical habitat for the Lane Mountain milk-vetch plant located in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California. The critical habitat would apply to approximately 30,000 acres.

If you prospect or mine in this area, or believe you may do so in the future, you need to comment on this proposal.

The proposal is available on the Internet at: www.regulations.gov

Comments will be accepted until June 7, 2004. Public hearing requests must be received by May 21, 2004.

Comments can be mailed to Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Rd, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003. Comments may also be submitted via email to FW1Lanemv@r1.fws.gov 
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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