Lisbon Valley Mine holds public outreach meeting, considers expansion
Alysen Tarrant, the Environmental Manager for the Lisbon Valley Copper Mine stood before a public crowd at the Hideout Golf Course conference room last Wednesday, presenting four options the mine is considering.
*Option number one was open pit mining and ISR (in-situ recovery).
*Option number two was open pit mining only.
*Option number three was ISR only.
*Option number four was no action.
During the course of the public outreach meeting, Tarrant and Brian Sparks and Lantz Indergard all took turns touching upon various aspects of the mine’s past and future plans. Sparks is the Chief Geologist at the mine and spent time during the presentation explaining the natural phenomenon of how the Lisbon Valley formed over time.
“Lisbon valley contains sediment-hosted copper deposits,” Sparks said, “which are geologically fairly unique. We’re the only producer from sedimentary hosted copper deposits in the western hemisphere and one of only a handful in the world.”
Indergard is the Manager of Solution Sciences for the mine and talked about his time with the mine since it began operations in 2005 and his experience with some of the hydrology issues during that time span.
“I’ve been at the mine since 2005,” Indergard said. “We’ve been through some changes, mostly improving the process. We basically started production in 2006 and in those days we had a primary and secondary crusher and we crushed to a two inch minus ore on the heap leach pad. We transitioned. We got away from crushing and went to what is called run of mine ore...which allowed us to basically produce more copper in a shorter amount of time.”
Tarrant presented the four options the mine is considering, starting first with option number one which outlined an expansion plan that includes the hiring of additional employees at the copper mine operation 35 miles northeast of Monticello.
“Currently we have over 70 full-time employees,” Tarrant said, “We expect to increase that number to roughly 100 employees in the upcoming year.”
Tarrant said the mine is considering expanding their current operations. One of the reasons is because of the company’s ability to backfill waste rock. The native soil according to Tarrant is full of acid neutralizing components and that the waste is neutralized. This neutralization in the dump process is something Tarrant called beneficial.
“Putting the waste back in the pits is actually incredibly beneficial environmentally and of course in terms of surface disturbance,” she said, pointing out that at the end of the mine life only about 30 percent of the total amount of land will remain unreclaimed. “That 30 percent is basically open pit highwalls. Everything else of the 1,200 acres will be reclaimed as close to matching the surrounding natural environment as possible.”
The company keeps six million dollars set aside in a trust account with the BLM and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining specifically for reclamation of the active mine area. Having that money set aside is something that gives the mining company the ability to clean up the active mine site after operations are complete.
The Lower Lisbon valley contains 5,300 acres on which the company has received approval to, “construct exploration activities.” The company has already conducted over 1,000 drill holes within the lower Lisbon Valley and current mining operation area. This exploration gives the company what they feel is a really good grasp on what is in the area. If the company decides to expand its operations on the additional 5,300 acres, they will be required to perform extensive surveys to make sure any disturbances that are created will not have a long-term negative impact on the wildlife in the area.
“We don’t want to stop mining, we don’t want to close up shop, we don’t want to have to layoff our employees,” Tarrant said.
“We want to continue being good stewards for the environment and we want to continue our operations into the future to provide good long-term good paying high sustainable jobs and also provide tax revenues for a long time.”
For this reason the mine is looking into permitting additional targets within the lower Lisbon Valley area. The areas have been identified through exploratory drilling which have been being performed over the last 13 years.
“We feel confident about the prospects in the lower Lisbon Valley area,” Tarrant said before going into the three other options which included scaled back versions of expansion and also the option of closing down operations altogether.
Upon completion of the presentation, the three Lisbon Valley Mine employees fielded questions from the public.
One public attendee asked why there is still waste rock sitting around in the mining area that has seemingly been there for several years and has yet to be reclaimed.
“What you see is a huge environmental impact,” the community member said.
“When you talk about environmental stewardship and reclamation, it’s hard to understand what exactly you mean because we see these huge waste rock piles, some with vegetation and some with no vegetation.
I just don’t see what you envision except for something like what is already there, which is rather intrusive.”
Tarrant explained that a lot of the activities are quite recent and within the last ten years.
Indergard then stated that backfilling at the mine has only been approved for just over three years.
“We are well into the game of developing waste dumps until we got the backfilling permit, which was unfortunate,” Indergard said.
“You are seeing waste dumps that accumulated early in the mine life and we don’t envision making those waste dumps moving forward.”
Tarrant added that some of the old waste dumps have actually been successfully backfilled and that it is an ongoing process.
“For the waste dumps that are there, we are working closely with the BLM and the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining to develop techniques to be able to reclaim those in a way that has long-term sustainability.”