Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases
California: Imperial Mine Project (Imperial County)
Read the latest on this case
The California State Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has notified the Council that it is reviewing a plan of operations submitted by Glamis Gold Corporation for the development of an open-pit, precious metal mine in eastern Imperial County, California. The plan was submitted pursuant to the Mining Act of 1872 and in accordance with the BLM's regulations. The proposed mine has three major components: a 1571-acre mine and process area; an ancillary area of 38 acres for water wells and utility corridors; and a 16-mile upgraded transmission line.
Cultural resource studies conducted by the BLM have resulted in the identification of numerous historic properties within the area of potential effects. Among these is the Indian Pass-Running Man Area of Traditional Cultural Concern, a historic district of central importance to the Quechan Tribe for its role in the transmittal and practice of traditional religious and cultural beliefs. The BLM and the California SHPO concur that the area is eligible for listing in the National Register.
BLM has proposed avoiding significant cultural features in the area through flagging and erection of temporary barriers designed to keep heavy equipment from straying out of targeted construction areas. The agency also proposes to conduct archeological data recovery and to withdraw certain adjacent lands from mining. Other measures are planned, including providing funding or other materials to the Tribe for educational and research purposes.
None of the proposed mitigation measures appear responsive to the need to reduce or eliminate physical, visual, audible and atmospheric effects of the project. Although it remains to be confirmed, BLM's approach may be rooted in its interpretation of the Mining Act of 1872. This law, according to some legal perspectives, prohibits the Federal Government from denying mineral extraction on Federal lands, even when such extraction may conflict with other uses. In the past, BLM has argued that the law and its implementing regulations do not allow the agency to deny a mining company's Plan of Operations, consider alternatives to the plan, or impose design changes to the plan.
The Quechan have indicated that the presence of the proposed mine would destroy their ability to practice their traditional religion and culture. The tribe opposes the project, contending that the loss of their traditional culture can not be mitigated by any of the measures BLM has proposed.
BLM has received over 500 comments on the project from the interested public, including archeologists, environmental groups, historic resources community members, and local Indian tribes. Several public hearings have already been held, and BLM has requested that the Council convene another one to discuss the proposed mitigation measures and the design of a treatment plan.
In September, Council staff asked BLM to provide additional information on the eligibility of certain affected properties, the nature of the public comments received, and the intent and purpose of certain mitigation measures proposed by the BLM. Depending on BLM's response, a public meeting may need to be scheduled to refine our understanding of the issues and create a strategy for bringing Council review to closure.
Staff contact: Alan Stanfill
Return to top of page