The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will delay starting the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review process for RMI’s proposed mine expansion to 2021, according to BLM spokesman David Boyd.
A group of four advance studies, which would provide supporting information for the EIS, are taking more time than expected. BLM had previously planned to start the EIS review process by summer of 2020.
The advance studies are a mineral examination, a groundwater study, a cave and karst study, and an ethnographic study.
Here is the status of the four studies:
• Results of the mineral examination are expected by summer 2020. The examination process includes geologic sampling and an economic study of RMI’s potential customer base and profitability.
The findings will guide BLM officials in determining whether the limestone deposit meets 1872 Mining Law standards as a “locatable” mineral, or is of a common variety and thus considered a “saleable” mineral.
• The groundwater study has been stalled by controversy, due to serious concerns that test well drilling could permanently damage the groundwater system that feeds hot springs in Glenwood Springs.
BLM expects to release a preliminary environmental assessment (EA) document in May focused on the proposed test wells, followed by a public comment period. A final decision by BLM on whether and how to allow the test well drilling would come after the comment period.
Using the test wells, BLM sought to have groundwater monitoring run for 12 months to provide data for the EIS process. Boyd said while that data would be helpful, the EIS can still move forward without the groundwater data.
• A study of the proposed mining area’s cave and karst features hasn’t formally started. Discovery in October 2019 of the Witches’ Pantry Cave by local spelunkers proves that valuable cave resources underlie the proposed mine area. BLM is working with Colorado Parks & Wildlife to learn whether the cave is used by bats for winter hibernation.
• For the ethnographic study, BLM has provided the names of several qualified consultants to RMI. This study would focus on use of the Transfer Trail route and mountainside by Native Americans prior to white settlement in the mid-1800’s.
RMI is responsible for the costs of conducting all of these studies, along with standard biological and cultural surveys.