Opponents of the Mount Hope Molybdenum Mine near Eureka scored a win when a federal appeals court vacated the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the mining project.
The ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is a blow to efforts to begin mining in the area 25 miles northwest of Eureka.
Opponents of the mine contended in a lawsuit that operating it would be dangerous to the area’s water supply and could possible deplete water tables in the county.
Great Basin Resource Watch and the Western Shoshone Defense Project are plaintiffs in the case against the Bureau of Land Management, which permitted the project in 2012, and Eureka Moly, LLC., which is the company seeking to develop the mine.
The proposed open pit operation and processing facilities would disturb about 8,300 acres within the 22,886-acre project area, most of it on public lands. The 80-year project life involves a two-year construction phase, 44 years of mining and ore processing, 30 years of reclamation and five years of post-closure monitoring.
Eureka Moly officials portrayed the decision as a narrow one involving air quality that supports most of the Environmental Impact Statement and does not mean the end of the project.
“We are pleased that the majority of the Mt. Hope EIS completed by the BLM was supported by the 9th Circuit’s decision, and we will work with the BLM to resolve the technical deficiencies concerning the baseline air quality requirements under NEPA,’’ said Bruce D. Hansen, the company’s chief executive officer.
The case was on appeal after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones in Reno denied the plaintiffs’ complaint in 2014.
The appeals panel said the environmental review was lacking because it used a baseline of zero for several air pollutants when analyzing potential effects on air quality. Because of that, it said the BLM’s air quality findings both of the project itself and cumulatively with other mining and natural resource development in the region did not meet the standards required.
But the appeals court rejected other arguments raised by critics and determined the BLM’s review and findings regarding water issues and mitigation were adequate under the law.