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California: Development of Glamis Imperial Corporation Mine
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Agency: Bureau of Land Management
Criteria for Council Involvement:
The Council is involved in this case under the terms of the 1997 nationwide Programmatic Agreement for Bureau of Land Management undertakings. In addition:
- The Indian Pass-Running Man Area of Traditional Cultural Concern and other properties are noteworthy for their importance to the religion and culture of the Quechan Tribe (Criterion 1).
- This project highlights potential conflicts between Section 106 and the Mining Act of 1872 (Criteria 2 and 3).
- The Quechan Tribe has indicated that project impacts will destroy the tribe's ability to practice their traditional religion and culture (Criterion 4).
In August, Glamis Imperial Corporation provided the Council with additional information on the companyís cultural resource investigations for their proposed gold mine. The information included a discussion of the corporationís efforts to mitigate the effects of the undertaking on properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to the Quechan Tribe.
On September 8, 1999, the Council member working group met to determine the content of its recommended comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Their recommendation will go to the Council Chairman shortly for final approval and transmittal to BLM.
The California State Office of BLM is reviewing a plan of operations submitted by Glamis Imperial Corporation for the development of an open-pit gold mine in eastern Imperial County. The plan was submitted pursuant to the Mining Act of 1872 and in accordance with the BLMís regulations. The proposed mine has three major components: a 1,571-acre mine and processing 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 identified 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. BLM and the California State Historic Preservation
Officer concur that the area is eligible for listing in the National Register.
The Quechan have indicated that the presence of the proposed mine would destroy their ability to practice their traditional religion and culture. The tribe therefore 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 proposed to protect significant cultural features in the area by flagging them and erecting temporary barriers 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.
In recognition of the complex and controversial nature of this mining project, Chairman Slater appointed a Council working group to advise and direct to the staff: Dick Sanderson, Environmental Protection Agency; Elizabeth Merritt, National Trust for Historic Preservation; and Ray Soon, Native Hawaiian Council member.
An onsite meeting and public meeting was held in March; more than 50 people spoke during the six-hour meeting. Testimony ranged from support for the mine because of its economic benefits, to opposition based on its culturally destructive effects to the Quechan and other Indian tribes. A substantial majority of the speakers opposed the mine.
In July the Council member working group, Council staff, and representatives from BLM met with representatives of the Glamis Imperial Corporation at the Councilís Washington, DC, headquarters. Company officials urged that consultation be used to find acceptable mitigation that would allow the project to go forward.
This case has been complicated by the provisions of the Mining Act of 1872, which govern Federal regulation of private mining claims on public lands. It is not completely clear to what extent BLM has the ability to prohibit mining activities that have serious effects on historic resources. Traditionally, BLM has taken a restrictive view of its authority to actually deny a proposed mining plan of operation and has looked instead to developing mitigation measures that can be incorporated into the plan.
Hence, the focus of BLMís consideration thus far has been on mitigation, which is not adequate to effectively deal with the preservation impacts.
Staff contact: Alan Stanfill
July 1999 report on this case
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