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BLM to hold hearings on Gemfield mine

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management published a notice of intent in the Federal Register to begin the environmental impact statement for the proposed Gemfield mine in Esmeralda County, 1.5 miles north of Goldfield.

A public hearing is scheduled on the project from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Goldfield Elementary School, Fifth and Ramsey Streets. Representatives from Metallic Goldfield Inc. and the BLM will be present to answer questions. A written comment period is open until Jan. 22, 2014.

Metallic Goldfield Inc. proposes to construct, operate, reclaim and close an open pit, heap leach and gold mining operation. The area would disturb about 660 acres of public land managed by the BLM Tonopah Field Office and 414 acres of private land controlled by MGI. The mine is expected to have a life of 13 years, according to the BLM press release, MGI expects to employ 150 workers.

The BLM identified preliminary issues including the relocation of Highway 95, closure of the cyanide heap leach pad, impacts to cultural resources, impacts to vegetation and wildlife and socioeconomic concerns related to the anticipated influx of mine workers.

Nye County Commissioners Dec. 17 voted to approve a memorandum of understanding with the BLM to participate in preparing the environmental impact statement, the board voted Nov. 19 to request cooperating agency status. The National Environmental Policy Act, passed in 1970, mandates federal agencies prepare a detailed statement of the effects of major federal actions significantly affecting the human environment. The BLM wrote a letter to the Nye County Commission Sept. 26 inviting the county to participate in the development of the EIS.

Under the memorandum, the BLM agrees to ensure Nye County has a right to review and comment on the EIS, coordinate information with the EIS contractor Stantec, including a review of the plan of operations, invite county officials to meet with other agencies, provide regular progress on the review and review inconsistencies with the Nye County master plan and public lands policy plan.

In July 2012, parent company International Minerals Corporation announced positive results from an independent feasibility study on the Gemfield project.

They estimated at a base gold price of $1,350 per ounce and a projected 6,000 tons mined per day, the open pit mine could return a pre-tax net present value of $102 million at a 5 percent discount rate and an internal rate of return of 22 percent, based on initial estimated capital costs of $133 million.

Average annual gold production was estimated at 66,000 ounces per year with a cash operating cost of $526 per ounce.

The 2012 study said base engineering was scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2012 and subject to permitting, financing and construction, production could begin in mid-2015.

International Minerals Corporation estimated proven and probable mineral reserves at Gemfield of 14.3 million tons at an average grade of 1.1 grams of gold per ton, containing 511,000 ounces of gold, resulting in a mine life of 6.5 years.

The report quotes Steve Kay, president and chief executive officer of IMZ who states, “the completion of the feasibility study for the Gemfield deposit is not only the first major step in the future development of the overall Goldfield project, but it is also an important milestone in IMZ’s goal of becoming a stand-alone mine operator to complement silver and gold production from its 40-percent owned Peruvian operations.”

During a presentation before Nye County Commissioners in December 2011, Kevin Keating, manager of Nevada operations for Metallic Gold and parent company International Minerals, said the western portion of the gold deposit lies directly below Highway 95. The company intends to mine the Gemfield deposit and the nearby McMahon Ridge deposit with a common processing facility in the middle.

“It’s a fairly simple, open pit mining operation with a heap leach processing facility. The one thing that’s kind of different than numerous other mining projects in Nevada is one of the ore deposits lies below Highway 95, it’s going to cause us to relocate the highway,” Keating told commissioners.

Keating said the company has about 32 square miles of property they own or control through lease agreements or mining claims in the Goldfield Mining District, some of which extend into Nye County. At the time, he told commissioners he expected a mine life of 10 years and employment of 100 full-time personnel during the mine life. Anticipated production was originally 44,000 ounces per year.

Keating anticipated the new highway would be built before the old highway is impacted.

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