By Mila Besich Lira
Copper Area News
The US Army Corps of Engineers began the public participation process for the development of the ASARCO tailings expansion. ASARCO has identified state trust land in the Ripsey Wash area as the future tailings pond. The process to begin selecting and permitting tailings sites for ASARCO has begun, in anticipation for the closure of the Elder Gulch tailings site. ASARCO officials explained that the Elder Gulch tailings pond has six to ten years left, before they exceed the height limits.
Officials from ASARCO explained that the company had explored other areas including Granite Mountain, Copper Butte, Devil’s Canyon and areas behind Hayden. Ripsey Wash was chosen as the site due to its proximity to the Ray pit mine, the hydrology and geology of the area. The site once permitted will require the Kelvin-Florence Highway and the Arizona Trail to be rerouted and will also require the relocation of a Salt River Project power line. The tailings site will be located close to the A-Diamond Ranch and will be transported by a slurry pipeline that will be constructed along the Kelvin-Florence Highway.
Ripsey Wash is a tributary to the Gila River and in order to protect the Gila River, ASARCO will construct a seepage dam that will allow any runoff water from the tailings to be stored on the tailings site then pumped back to the pit. Once the water reaches the pit it will be processed through wastewater treatment plants and will then be reused for mine operations. This process will be required to keep the Gila River from being contaminated.
The Army Corps of Engineers conducted the public permitting process, which explained all of the permits and public participation processes that will have to occur before final approval is given to construct the tailings site. The Corps expect to have a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by September of 2014 and by October of 2015 they expect to have a decision statement.
The studies and public participation facilitated by the Army Corps of Engineers will determine if the site can be permitted for tailings. Their permitting process will address all direct, indirect and cumulative impacts to the area. Those impacts will include environmental impacts, socioeconomic and wildlife impacts. After the permitting process is complete the Corps may decide not to take any action or make any recommendations, they may accept the permit or they may approve and request other mitigation efforts to take place.
Several members of the public attended the meeting, however comments made by members of the public were not stated publicly. Those speaking were encouraged to record their comments with the court reporter assigned to the public hearing. Anyone wishing to make a comment or address a concern on the project are encouraged to contact Michael Langley at 602-230-6953 or via e-mail at .
You can learn more about this tailing project and the permitting process by visiting the public notice regarding this project at: http://1.usa.gov/1dTfYCb.
See more photos online at http://bit.ly/17pgpSS.