Relief Canyon Mine could be back in production next year

Reopening a mine takes almost infinite determination and those who follow the process must be equally patient. Pershing Gold Corporation officials have endured endless investment deals and government red tape since the company took over the Relief Canyon Mine over four years ago.

Pershing Gold Vice President Jack Perkins explained that adequate revenues must be in place to carry the mine through good and bad times for years to come and guarantee a reliable payroll for heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, ore processors, geologists, drillers and others.

“We do not plan on hiring additional workers, other than to replace normal attrition, until we have the project finance completed for Relief Canyon,” he said last week. “We are targeting early 2018 to have the financing wrapped up with construction to follow directly after. At this point, we will start hiring additional workers with a six to nine month construction period expected before initial production.”

Pershing Gold’s Senior Vice President Debra Struhsacker hailed a recent order by the Department of the Interior to “enhance, modernize and streamline” the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) by cutting the paperwork and years of red tape involved in the permitting process for mines, energy projects and other public land resource development.

“Streamlining the permitting process would be very important to Pershing Gold and all other Pershing County mine operators and exploration companies,” she said last week. “”That’s why we’re so pleased when Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3355, directing the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies to complete Environmental Impact Statements within 12 months and place page limits on these documents.”

Struhsacker said the directive would benefit Pershing County because the shorter EIS time frame would expedite the hiring of mine workers and the generation of tax revenues.

According to the order, NEPA’s purpose should be “not the generation of paperwork but the adoption of sound decisions based on informed understanding of environmental consequences.” The process should “prepare analytic (rather than encyclopedic) documents, among other measures.”

Anyone who has attempted to read through an entire Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment issued by the BLM after months of work might appreciate the order.

Struhsacker said the order helps the BLM and other agencies implement President Donald Trump’s directive for greater energy independence, economic growth and infrastructure projects by promoting discipline and accountability in the environmental review and permitting process.

Struhsacker agreed with National Mining Association General Council Katie Sweeney’s statement that “minerals are critical to building and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure.”

Sweeney and other industry officials recently testified before the House and Senate natural resources committees on the importance of domestic minerals for American industries and jobs. The closure of public lands rich in minerals, especially in the West, hurts the economy and reduces the minerals needed for “countless industries” according to a NMA press release.

“Mineral withdrawals that put lands off-limits to mining are very harmful to local communities, the state and the entire country because withdrawals increase the nation’s reliance on foreign sources of minerals,” Struhsacker said in an email last week. “Withdrawals cost jobs, deprive state and local governments of the tax benefits associated with mineral exploration, mine development and operating mines.”

According to the NMA, the United States is increasingly dependent on foreign sources of minerals and metals and less than half of the minerals manufacturers need are sourced domestically, despite the nation’s “abundant mineral endowment.”

“The U.S. mining industry is the source of raw materials necessary to make planes, trains and automobiles not to mention runways, bridges, rail lines and roads,” Hecla Mining spokesman Luke Russell told Congress. “We cannot repair our infrastructure without key raw materials.”