A Nevada company has reached another permitting milestone and is moving forward with plans to build a large gold mine in Eastern Oregon, south of Vale near Lake Owyhee.
Paramount Gold has submitted its operations plan for the proposed Grassy Mountain Gold Mine to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. By the end of November, the agency will tell the company whether it can start preparing an environmental impact statement — a document that kicks off a review process where the mining proposal will face regulatory and public scrutiny.
It’s a big step for what would be the first chemical process gold mine in Oregon.
Paramount CEO Rachel Goldman said in a press release that even with inflation driving up costs, the plan “outlines a profitable operation creating significant value to the surrounding communities, job creation and ultimately increasing stockholder value.”
The Oregon Legislature established a permit application process for chemical mines in the 1990s, but in 2017 Paramount Gold became the first company to start an application, according to Sarah Lewis with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries or DOGAMI.
“The Legislature put these rules in place to ensure that if chemical process mining were to happen in Oregon that it would be done in an environmentally responsible way,” said Lewis, who manages DOGAMI’s Mineral Land Regulation and Reclamation program.
Chemical processing with a cyanide solution allows companies to more easily extract precious metals from low-grade ore. Use of cyanide, a toxic chemical, in mining has drawn criticism for its harmful effects on human health, wildlife and the environment.
Paramount projects the mine would produce about 362,000 ounces of gold and 425,000 ounces of silver over eight years, which would draw about $642 million altogether at the company’s estimated prices.
But the company still faces months or even years of regulatory review before it can begin construction on the 8,200-acre site. The project requires federal and state environmental analyses to determine the mine’s potential impact on land, water and wildlife.
DOGAMI is currently reviewing the company’s application with other state agencies. The company’s application includes plans to control pollution, protect air and water quality, manage noxious weeds, safeguard wildlife and more. If they deem Paramount’s application complete, the agencies can begin drafting permits.
“That means we basically figure out under what circumstances would we be willing to allow the operation to go forward,” Lewis said.
Paramount has already received key permits from the Oregon Water Resources Department for the water needed to operate the mine and processing facilities and from Malheur County to build on the land.
Approval of the Grassy Mountain permit application could set the stage for more chemical process mine proposals in Oregon. Malheur County has several similar, low-grade gold deposits, including one being explored by Paramount about 12 miles west of Grassy Mountain.