USFS findings not expected before the end of year
By Ann McCreary
A decision on the Mazama Copper Project is not expected until near the end of this year at the earliest, a U.S. Forest Service official said this week.
The project proposes drilling exploratory holes on Forest Service land near Flagg Mountain in Mazama to determine if there are mineral resources worth extracting. The Forest Service must approve a permit for the project to move forward.
Some environmental studies required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are not yet completed for the project, said Laurie Dowie, special uses and mineral coordinator for the Methow Valley Ranger District.
In addition, a biological assessment for the project has not yet been submitted to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Service, which must sign off on the project. That review process requires 30 days after submission, Dowie said.
Like last summer, Forest Service staff has had to divert attention from other business to deal with wildfires and their aftermath, Dowie said.
The project, proposed by Blue River Resources Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C., would involve drilling up to 15 exploratory holes, up to 980 feet deep, to explore for minerals.
Blue River Resources acquired rights on the property and, under federal mining laws, has the statutory right to explore for and develop mineral resources on federal land. The Forest Service can set requirements for mitigation measures and design criteria to meet federal and state environmental laws.
The project is categorized as a short-term mineral exploration that lasts less than a year and involves no new road construction. Based on those criteria, it qualifies as “categorically excluded” from more detailed environmental studies like an Environmental Impact Statement.
Because the project area is habitat for Northern spotted owls, a federally protected species, work cannot take place until after Aug. 1, when the birds’ nesting season ends. Work would be allowed to continue until end of November when Goat Creek Road, which provides access to the site, is closed each year and groomed for a recreational snowmobile trail.
Blue River Resources first approached the Forest Service in 2013 with its proposal to search for mineral deposits in Mazama, in an area that has been explored on several occasions over the past 40 years by other mining companies.
In a cost-sharing agreement with the Forest Service, Blue River Resources has agreed to pay $23,091 for Forest Service staff time to expedite NEPA compliance.