Newmont starts work on new gold mine in Nevada |

Newmont starts work on new gold mine in Nevada

Associated Press

BATTLE MOUNTAIN – Newmont Mining Corp. began construction this week for the controversial Phoenix gold mine on a site where copper and gold have been mined off and on since the 1860s.

“We’re cleaning up historic mining and starting new mining. It’s a very positive thing,” said Wayne Murdy, Newmont’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Roughly 60 guests visited the $200 million project near Battle Mountain for a ceremony Tuesday at the future site of the administration building, warehouse and truck shop.

“This is a good day for Lander County, for Newmont and for the industry itself. I can’t think of a better place to mine,” said Bob Abbey, the Bureau of Land Management’s state director for Nevada.

Newmont will be “cleaning up the remnants of old mining and bring today’s technology to the site,” he said.

Abbey recently gave the green light for the project after he reviewed the BLM’s environmental impact statement and record of decision for Phoenix.

“We put Newmont through the mill, so to speak, to make sure all the issues were addressed, and now we need to work together to monitor ongoing mining and make sure reclamation is concurrent,” Abbey told the Elko Daily Free Press.

Great Basin Mine Watch and the Western Shoshone Defense Project asked Abbey for the review because of concerns about acid rock drainage and long-term impacts to water from the mine.

The critics argued – and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed – that Newmont has dramatically underestimated the potential costs of environmental risks at the mine over tens of thousands of years.

The group warned BLM that the project will dry up streams, pollute groundwater and surface water, cause substantial toxicological threats to wildlife and likely end up on the EPA’s Superfund list.

BLM disagreed. Newmont officials acknowledge sulfuric acid could leak far into the future but insist state-of-the-art reclamation practices will minimize risks at the mine.

The Denver-based Newmont and its Phoenix predecessor, Battle Mountain Gold, worked with BLM for 10 years on permitting, but the project kept changing and growing as more gold and copper were discovered during the planning stages.

“It’s taken a lot of years to get here. I’m glad to see we were able to get this property permitted and Newmont get started,” said Gail Givens, BLM’s assistant field manager for nonrenewable resources in Battle Mountain.

Newmont is expecting project construction to continue into mid-2006 and mining to continue for 15 years, with roughly 300 full-time employees. Upwards of 450 construction workers will be on site, and the construction payroll is estimated at $15 million to $20 million.

Lander County Commissioner Mickey Yarbro said Battle Mountain already is seeing the impact, with rentals in town nearly full.

“We think it’s wonderful. We’ve been waiting a while for it,” Yarbro said. “The town has picked up and everyone has a smile on their face.”

Battle Mountain already is home to a number of miners working at the Lone Tree Complex who will be moving over to Phoenix as Lone Tree mining slows. Mining is scheduled to end at Lone Tree in August 2006.

“This allows us to sustain the population base in Lander County, and we have a unique opportunity for sustainability,” said Joel Lenz, manager of the Phoenix and Lone Tree operations and a Battle Mountain resident.

“The economic benefits to Lander County will be tremendous,” added Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, who commended Newmont and other mining companies operating in Nevada for “folding projects together so we don’t have peaks and valleys – boom and bust.”

Phoenix will produce 21 million pounds of copper per year and as much as 420,000 ounces of gold per year.

Rich Perry, who heads North American operations for Newmont, said prospectors first discovered copper on the Phoenix site in the 1860s, and the first process plant was built on site in 1876.

“Phoenix represents rebirth,” Perry said.

On the Net:

Newmont Mining:

Great Basin Mine Watch:

BLM Nevada:

Information from: Elko Daily Free Press,