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Water Rights for Mining Lapse on Buckhorn


 Surge Pond  The mining and industrial water rights for the Buckhorn Mountain Gold Mine expired on December 31, 2015, and now Crown Resources continues to operate the mine without a valid water right for mining use, using water purchased from the Curlew Water and Sewer District and trucking it to the mine site as a work-around. Crown/Kinross originally requested that the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) approve a 20-year extension to their temporary 8-year mining and industrial water rights. The request has since been revised to three years.

Ecology did not approve the requested extension because of a concern that such an approval would exceed the scope of the environmental analysis required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Approving the water right extension would also impact the mitigation package previously agreed to by the mining company and regulatory agencies and presented to the public during the permitting of the mine. “There are unaddressed issues related to SEPA compliance and potential conflicts with the existing mitigation package for the Buckhorn Mine Project,” Ecology wrote in response to the company’s extension request. “Additional mitigation to cover this additional mining period has not been offered, and no discussion of modifying the existing mitigation schedule or package has been provided.” 

Without approval of the extension, the industrial and mining water rights have expired, although water rights associated with the mine for uses other than mining, including domestic, instream flow, and dust control uses, remain intact.