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BLM says environmental review can begin for proposal for Oregon’s first chemical process gold mine

An aerial image of the proposed Grassy Mountain gold mine site south of Vale, Ore.
Paramount Gold
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An aerial image of the proposed Grassy Mountain gold mine site south of Vale, Ore.

Paramount Gold will soon begin preparing an environmental impact statement, which will open the company's mining proposal up to regulatory and public scrutiny.

The Nevada company pitching a gold mine in Eastern Oregon is set to begin a critical environmental review process.

Paramount Gold announced Tuesday that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has deemed the company’s operations plan for the proposed Grassy Mountain mine complete. That means Paramount can soon begin preparing an environmental impact statement, which will open the mining proposal to regulatory and public scrutiny under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Paramount president and chief operating officer Glen Van Treek celebrated the agency’s decision in a press release.

“Our ongoing collaboration with the BLM over several years has allowed us to achieve this permitting milestone which is a first for a gold mine and recovery facility in Oregon, and advances Grassy one important step closer to a construction decision,” Van Treek said.

The company is looking to establish the first chemical process gold mine in Oregon. Chemical process mining typically uses a cyanide solution to extract precious metals from low-grade ore.

The proposed mine south of Vale, near Lake Owyhee, would produce about 362,000 ounces of gold and 425,000 ounces of silver over eight years, according to company estimates. That’s about $642 million worth of metal.

Paramount’s proposal will require county, state and federal approval before construction of the mine can begin. The company has permits from the Oregon Water Resources Department for the water needed to run the mine and processing facility and from Malheur County to build on the land.

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries is currently reviewing the company’s application for other state permits.

The Oregon Natural Desert Association, a conservation group, said in a written statement that Paramount “should commit to adopting the most protective and safest mine development and operations plan possible for Grassy Mountain.”

“As the mine is developing its plan of operations and associated documents, ONDA would be looking to see a proposal that incorporated all of the latest technologies and best management practices to limit impacts from the proposed mine,” the statement reads.

The group has called on Paramount to protect water quality, minimize impact to wildlife habitat, develop plans for reclamation and disposal of waste rock, and commit to hiring workers from Malheur County.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Bradley W. Parks