In September 2006, Washington State Department of Ecology issued a permit to construct a proposed underground mine and construction began even though hearings of OHA’s appeals had not yet begun. This was due to a third complication, namely that the legislature had created a new entity called the Environmental Land Use Hearings Board (ELUHB), to fast-track large development projects in low-income areas. Under ELUHB the hearing process for OHA’s appeals would not begin until all the permits were issued, which happened over a year later in November 2007.
The patenting of the land, the building of the mine, the fast-track process, and gold approaching $1,000 per ounce contributed to the impression that more could be gained for Buckhorn Mountain, its water and environment and the community by settling the appeals. On April 17, 2008 OHA and Crown/Kinross entered into negotiations resulting in an agreement whereby the mine would proceed with additional monitoring and stream augmentation and would enable OHA to administer a rigorous verification of monitoring and mitigation and implement additional mitigation projects in the Okanogan Highlands. For more information on the events leading up to and after the settlement agreement, see About OHA.
Details of the Agreement
Key Monitoring Provisions:
- Crown/Kinross will hire an independent third party to do their monitoring and reporting
- Crown will provide funds for OHA to hire its own independent monitoring company to do annual audits, quarterly visits, random sampling and testing to analyze Crown’s third party work
- Crown will increase water quality monitoring on the west slope of Buckhorn Mountain
- Crown will increase monitoring for sediment during spring runoff.
- Crown will lower the threshold for corrective action if sedimentation increases in Marias Creek
- Crown will collect baseline water quality and quantity data for residents' wells that are reasonably close to the mine if residents have concerns.
- Crown will send OHA all monitoring data.
- OHA will be permitted access to mine site.
- Crown and OHA will attend an annual meeting to discuss monitoring results.
Key Mitigation Provisions:
- As long as they are operating the dewatering wells, Crown will run water over to the headwaters of Gold and Bolster creeks to maintain seasonal baseflow.
- After closure of the mine Crown, will retire 25 acres of the Lost Creek Ranch irrigation water (15 acres more than the agencies required). This would add water to Myers Creek and Bolster alluvial fan groundwater to replace the predicted permanent reduction caused by mining
- Crown agreed to permanent conservation easements of their mitigation sites including the reclaimed mine site and opening them for public access.
- Crown will also fund a significant amount of additional mitigation sites throughout the area.
- Crown will fix problems with residents' wells that are caused by mining activity.
- Crown will make a good faith effort to minimize truck hauling on weekends.
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