Marianne Kobak McKown/Elko Daily Free Press
Simon Quick, vice president of projects for McEwen Mining, points out areas of the proposed Gold Bar Mine in Eureka County.

By Marianne Kobak McKown
Elko Daily Free Press

McEwen Mining Inc.’s Gold Bar project in Eureka County would be the company’s first mine in the United States if it is approved by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Canadian company and the BLM were in the Eureka Opera House on Wednesday night to answer the public’s questions about the proposed gold mine that would be about 30 miles northwest of the city of Eureka.

Simon Quick, vice president of projects for McEwen Mining, said the company has two operations – a heap leach mine in Mexico and an underground operation in Argentina – but Gold Bar would be its first U.S. mine. If approved, it will be a surface, heap leach mine.

The company expects the mine will employ about 100 people.

The proposed mine is quite close to the old Gold Bar mine that was owned by Atlas.

“We are activating some of the previous pits, but no process facilities or the principal pit,” Quick said. “We do not control this land and will not disturb it.

“Towards the end of the mine life under Atlas prior to going bankrupt, they began mining up on the hill (Gold Pick, Gold Ridge) pits. We will be re-activating those areas and hauling material downhill to a centrally located heap leach facility.”

The mine won’t have any dewatering issues since the pits are situated at about 8,000 feet elevation. None of the final benches intercept the water table, Quick said.

The company has an agreement with a local ranch for water.

Quick said the county, BLM and other agencies have been “excellent” to work with.

“It’s been a great area,” he said. “The county has been very helpful with us and it’s a seasoned workforce.”

Jeff Snyder, general manager for Gold Bar, said he started with McEwen in May 2016.

“I think the BLM has done a really good job of doing the base line work and engaging the stakeholders early,” he said. “I’m pretty excited now that the draft is out for public comment that there’s a lot of support for the project.”

The BLM released the draft environmental impact statement March 3.

Clint Garrett of the Nevada Department of Wildlife said he came to the meeting to find out about the project. He was assigned to the area about six months ago.

“I’m coming in the middle of all of this, so I’m trying to inform myself as well,” he said.

Maurice Frank-Churchill and Warren Graham, both of Duckwater, also came to the meeting for information.

Elko Daily Free Press
This map shows the proposed Gold Bar Mine in relation to other mines along the Cortez Trend.

Frank-Churchill said their main interests are the cultural resources and how the mine will affect the plants and animals in the area.

“Like anybody else we’ve got to do our research first before we say anything,” he said.

The mine will have to mitigate for wild horses and sage grouse.

Shawna Richardson, BLM wild horse and burro specialist, said the wild horse herd around the project is a concern. She said the herd is over the management level and has been in the area at least 20 years.

“We know we’re going to have horses in this area so we want to make sure there’s going to be some mitigation,” she said.

It is one of the few areas the horses can move east and west. The BLM is concerned the horses be able to move safely through the area. The mitigation will include fences and educating the miners about the horses.

McEwen also is working on sage grouse issues near the mine because there are leks in the area.

“One of the things we really tried to do is build the plan so we minimized any kind of impacts to or around the leks,” said Ron Espell, McEwen environmental director North America.

The company has committed to busing employees to the mine site to minimize the number of vehicles on the road.

“We’ve agreed to travel restrictions during the leking season so that we don’t have cars on the road when the sage grouse are out there strutting, or anything like that,” Espell said.

The company is using existing roads and lessening noise impacts. It plans to have generators on the site with high-efficiency noise cancelation devices.

Joseph Moskiewicz Jr., BLM assistant field manager, said the company was able to get the decibel levels below 10.

The public has until April 17 to comment on the project.