PHOENIX – Members of the Regulatory Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District’s Arizona-Nevada Area Office held public scoping meetings on Sept. 24 and 25 in Kearney and Apache Junction, Ariz., to discuss a proposal for a new tailing facility for the Ray Mine in Pinal County.
“For this particular project, we determined that an Environmental Impact Statement is required before we can even consider issuing a 404 permit,” said Mike Langley, senior project manager with the Regulatory Division. “We’re pretty early on in the process, though.”
The purpose of the meetings was to provide information to the public in areas that could be affected by the proposal by ASARCO and to provide members of the public a forum in which they could receive information from ASARCO and from the District regarding the process. Langley and his team also provided a means by which the public could give feedback to the District regarding their thoughts on the proposed tailing facility.
More than three dozen members of the Kearney community attended the meeting on the 24th and nearly two dozen attended in Apache Junction the following night. The assembled community members learned the history of the Ray Mine and the steps in the Corps of Engineers’ EIS process.
The mine began operations in the 1940s, beginning as an underground mining operation, and has evolved since then. The current storage for the mine’s tailings is projected to run out in less than 10 years. ASARCO has identified a potential location for the new facility which will be able to hold the tailings for the remaining projected life of the mine; however, it does affect waters of the United States along the Gila River. Because of this, the Corps of Engineers is the lead agency on the EIS.
“The Gila River is a perennial water source just south of this facility if it is built,” explained Langley. “In Arizona, we’re concerned primarily with areas of fresh water.”
Langley said the plan is to have a draft EIS published in September 2014 and to have it available for public comment at that time. That October, the District plans to have public meetings on the draft so members of the public can comment on it and any changes can be made. Following the comment period and after any changes have been made, Langley said the District plans to issue the final EIS in September 2015 and issue the Record of Decision of whether the District will issue or deny ASARCO’s permit request in October 2015.
The current comment period on the scoping meetings will end on Oct. 28.