The Bureau of Land Management failed to give adequate analysis of air pollution levels for a proposed 8,300-acre open-pit molybdenum mine near Eureka, Nevada, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the BLM to reconsider its analysis of the plan for the Mt. Hope mine on public lands.
The Mt. Hope project would create a 32-year-long mining operation on public land administered by BLM.
The Western Shoshone Defense Project and other environmentalists challenged the project as a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and argued the approval of the plan violated federal land management policy and water rights. The also criticized the BLM analysis for cumulative impacts on water quality, as well as cultural, religious and historical resources.
While the mining would disturb 8,300 acres, the total area of the project, including rights-of-way would be nearly 23,000 acres, cover 44 years of mining and ore processing, 30 years of reclamation and five years of post-closure monitoring, according to the court.
The active phase of the mine would be 32 years and produce 1.7 billion tons of waste rock.
At the end of the mining phase, the open pit would be allowed to fill with ground water to a depthof 900 feet.
The trial judge approved the plan and the protesters appealed, winning the 9th Circuit order that the BLM correct errors in its consideration of impacts.
The baseline estimates of pollutants were wrong because the BLM relied on conclusory estimates with no supporting reasoning, the court said.
“This important information, which affects the air impacts analysis, was essentially immune from meaningful scrutiny by the public because the BLM never provided any data or reasoning in support of it,” the 9th Circuit held.
The court found the BLM analysis of air impacts was inadequate and sent the case back for corrective action.
The panel included Judges Susan Graber, Mary Murguia and visiting Judge Mark Bennett of Iowa.
Case: Great Basin Resource Watch v. Bureau of Land Management, No. 14-16812