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County grants Newmont mining a permit to expand Mesquite Mine operations

March 28, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The county Planning Commission granted a permit Wednesday to Newmont Mining Corp. to expand its Mesquite Mine about four miles northeast of Glamis.

The mine expansion could have a major effect on the environment but Newmont is doing a significant amount of work to off-set any negative impacts, county Planner Richard Cabanilla said.

Harriet Allen of the San Diego-based Desert Protective Council said her group was impressed by the changes to the final environmental impact report, released March 1.

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Allen said she would reserve final comments until the council has a chance to see the final record of decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The commission granted Denver-based Newmont a conditional-use permit, which means if Newmont does not meet the conditions of the permit, including environmental and archaeological conditions, the permit can be revoked.

One of the conditions from the State Lands Commission specifies mine pit walls within 20 feet above and below projected water levels are to be designed as steep as possible to minimize vegetation growth. Birds and small animals could eat the vegetation, which may carry harmful chemical compounds. One of the steps for processing gold includes leaching it from mined material with cyanide compounds.

The expansion also needs to be reviewed and approved by the county Board of Supervisors and the State Lands Commission.

According to Newmont documents, exploratory drilling started in 1981 but actual mining began in 1985. Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corp. purchased the mine in 1993 and merged with Newmont in 1997. The mine expansion was proposed three years ago.

The Mesquite Mine ceased mining operations and laid off 120 workers in May 2001 after 20 years in operation because of the low price of gold.

The mine still employs about 20 people, but with the expansion, could employ up to 194 workers over a six-year period, Newmont Manager Dennis Laybourne said.

In 2000 the Mesquite Mine produced 130,000 ounces of gold at a total cash cost of $221 per ounce. The mine at one time employed up to 2,000 people.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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