DOI News


Trustees Open 45-Day Public Comment Period on Draft Restoration Plan for Wildlife Injured by Hazardous Substances Releases from 3 Mine Sites in New Mexico


01/16/2013

Tyrone mine site near Silver City in Grant County, New MexicoThe Tyrone Mine site and surroundings, shown here, is located approximately 10 miles southwest of Silver City in southwestern Grant County, New Mexico. Open pit areas, leach stockpiles, waste stockpiles and tailings impoundments at the mine have released hazardous substances and injured migratory birds and habitat. Photo credit: New Mexico ONRT.

 

On January 16, 2013, the federal and State natural resource trustees opened a 45-day public comment period on “Draft Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Chino, Cobre, and Tyrone Mine Facilities.” This Draft Restoration Plan presents 21 natural resource restoration alternatives evaluated by the trustees and identifies 3 priority tiers for funding projects intended to restore wildlife and wildlife habitat injured by the release of hazardous substances from the 3 mine sites in Grant County, New Mexico.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • State of New Mexico, represented by New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Chino, Cobre and Tyrone mines are copper mines near Silver City, Grant County, in southwestern New Mexico. Various operations at the mines -- such as tailings, waste rock, ore and leach stockpiles, mine waters and seepage -- released hazardous substances including sulfuric acid, copper and other metals. The trustees found that these hazardous substances caused injury to natural resources and natural resource services including terrestrial resources such as soils and vegetation, surface water resources and associated wildlife habitat, migratory birds and wildlife.

The trustees settled natural resource damage claims with Freeport-McMoRan Corporation and affiliated companies in a Consent Decree entered by the U.S. District Court for the New Mexico District in February 2012. This settlement required Freeport-McMoRan to:

  • Pay $5,500,000 in natural resource damages;
  • Pay $59,750.99 for unreimbursed past assessment costs; and,
  • Transfer the deed to 715 acres of land south of City of Rocks, New Mexico, owned by Freeport McMoRan Chino Mines Co., to the State of New Mexico.

The transferred land, which is adjacent to City of Rocks State Park, is to be managed for conservation by New Mexico State Parks.

In the Draft Restoration Plan, the Trustees propose to use the monetary settlement to fund a diverse portfolio of wildlife-focused restoration projects. These projects include a mix of natural resource restoration actions designed to protect and restore wildlife habitat. Migratory birds were identified as the primary wildlife resource injured therefore preferred projects in the Draft Restoration Plan will specifically benefit migratory birds and waterfowl habitat.

Written comments on the Draft Restoration Plan must be received by New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee by Monday, March 4, 2013.

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