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Tuesday, 03/22/2011 9:46:17 AM

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:46:17 AM

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This looks promising! The Buckhorn mine and Kettle River mill are owned by Kinross Gold...

State, feds to consider gold exploration near Buckhorn
By K.C. Mehaffey

Friday, December 3, 2010

CHESAW — Owners of a gold mine near Chesaw want to explore for more gold on 10,000 acres surrounding Buckhorn Mine.

If approved, the gold mine owners could build up to 72 miles of new roads, 675 new drill pad sites, and drill 965 exploration holes on state, federal and private land over five years.

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and state Department of Natural Resources will analyze the proposal by Echo Bay Exploration, a subsidiary of Kinross Gold, which owns the Buckhorn Mine near Chesaw.

The U.S. Forest Service and state Department of Natural Resources are working together to issue an environmental impact statement on the company’s proposal, said Phil Christy, Buckhorn Mine coordinator for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

The DNR has already identified potential issues, such as disturbing land now used by wildlife, cattle, members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and people who recreate in the area.

Noise, noxious weeds and added road use also were listed as possible impacts from the proposed test drilling.

The exploration could lead to a proposal for another gold mine in the area, which would require additional environmental review and permitting, Christy said.

Okanogan Highlands Alliance, a local environmental group that is monitoring water quality around the mine, has recently raised concerns about increased mine-related contaminants in some streams, springs and groundwater wells since mining at Buckhorn began. They include chloride, nitrate, ammonia, sulfate and total dissolved solids.

Christy said exploration in that area before construction of the Buckhorn Mine was extensive. “Existing drill holes probably number over 1,000, and there may be as many as 1,500,” he said.

“Echo Bay wants to rapidly identify if there is additional gold resources near the existing Buckhorn Mine to continue uninterrupted operation of the Kettle River Mill and wants to identify possible additional gold resources within the wider project boundaries,” a DNR news release states.

Drilling could occur 24 hours a day, and take 11 days per drill hole. As many as 20 drill rigs could be used at once, and as many as six water trucks to haul water to the sites.

Property that would be explored includes more than 6,900 acres of Forest Service, 1,600 acres of state Department of Natural Resources land, almost 1,200 acres of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation land, and just under 300 acres of private land. A maximum of 507 acres would actually be disturbed, according to a Forest Service news release.

K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512