AMARGOSA VALLEY — Stephen Stine, chief executive officer of Coronet Metals U.S. Inc., insisted claims about unsafe chemical storage were being made by a disgruntled, ex-employee and the Liberty Precious Metals Testing and Processing Facility is safe.
But Stine admitted the accusations delayed the expected start up of his operation, which is supposed to process 50 tons per day of precious metals feed, including high grade ore and flotation gravity concentrates from the White Caps mine near Manhattan, into gold and silver.
A press release from the company states, “Coronet plans to toll process precious metals materials to produce dore in order to generate cash flow to cover corporate overhead and preparation for the refurbishment of its White Caps Mill and Tailings Project in Manhattan, Nevada. Once White Caps is operating, Coronet plans to process loaded carbon at the Liberty facility.”
Nye County has plans to protest the White Caps mine, as it would be near a new water well for the town of Manhattan.
Theo van der Linde, Coronet president and chief financial officer, said, “Completing the Liberty agreement further establishes Coronet in the mining-friendly state of Nevada. High precious metals prices have given rise to the reopening of historical mines, but there is a shortage of processing capacity. The White Caps and Liberty transactions put Coronet in a strong position to advance operations in Nevada.”
Coronet, which also has the Yanamina Gold Project in Peru, signed a four-year lease with an option to purchase for the Liberty site.
JoAnn Kittrell, a spokesman for the Nevada Division of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the Liberty Processing site was inspected Feb. 4. Their facility inspector found there were no issues.
“Any chemical leakage from drums or other containers should be on containment within the building and would not make it into the surrounding soil or ground water,” Kittrell said.
Liberty is an ore processing facility with a zero discharge water pollution control permit, she said.
Stine confirmed inspectors for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visited the facility after the ex-employee’s complaint and there were no citations issued. OSHA officials said they couldn’t comment on open investigations.
“This facility has been here for several years. This permit has been here since 2009 and I will share with you that it has a perfect record,” Stine said. “We have nothing to hide and we’re trying to construct and start up a very nice business that will be a great addition to the community because they really need employment here.”
Stine said he got a call from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection but they didn’t send out an inspector in response to the complaint.
Coronet has a permit that authorizes a processing rate of less than 18,500 tons of ore per year, the expected life of the processing is less than five years. The Liberty processing facility is prohibited from accepting, stockpiling or processing any hazardous material, according to a Division of Conservation and Natural Resources fact sheet.
The whistle blower said the facility was at one time a battery refurbishing plant, chemicals were being stored there like sulfuric acid. There were accusations chemicals were being stored there with no expiration date.
Initially, Coronet intends to reprocess small batches of approximately 1,000 tons of spent heap leach pad material from the closed Morningstar Mine in Nipton, Calif. to recover precious metals. Residue from reprocessing will be disposed of at the U.S. Ecology plant near Beatty.
Going back further in time, the Liberty Processing Facility was formerly the Weiss Road superfund cleanup site, a fact that drew the attention of Nye County Emergency Services Director Vance Payne.
“Historically you want to keep an eye on those, whatever caused those to be created,” he said.
The principal partners involved in that superfund site are well known to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Payne said.
Payne said the ex-employee felt the current condition of the site was extremely dangerous due to all the chemicals stored in the past and something needed to be done.
But the EMS director said, “Right now there is not one legitimate piece of information that indicates there’s so much as a drop of chemical of any kind being dropped on the ground in Amargosa.”
On Feb. 24, 2001, EPA mobilized a strike team in response to a request for assistance from Nye County Emergency Services.
The EPA cited many instances of improper chemical storage in the quonset hut and warehouse including conflicting chemical markings, unmarked containers and deteriorated drums and bags of chemicals.