Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
California: Development of Gold Mine (Imperial County)
Read the final report on this case
In recognition of the complex and controversial nature of this proposed mining project, a three-member working group of Council members was appointed by the Chairman to provide advice and direction to the staff. The members include Dick Sanderson of the Environmental Protection Agency, Richard Moe of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Ray Soon, the Councilís Native Hawaiian member.
On March 11, 1999, an on-site meeting was held to allow Council members and staff to obtain a better understanding of the proposed project and the historic preservation issues involved. Representatives from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the California State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the mining company, the Quechan tribe, and the general public participated.
After the consulting parties visited the proposed mine location and examined archeological and traditional religious sites in the area, a public meeting was held. 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.
With advice and direction from the working group, Council staff is continuing its analysis and will report further on the project to the Council members at their June meeting.
The California State Office of BLM is reviewing a plan of operations submitted by Glamis Gold Corporation for the development of an open-pit, gold mine in eastern Imperial County, California. 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 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 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.
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.
The proposed mitigation measures do not adequately reduce or eliminate the physical, visual, audible and atmospheric effects of the project. Although it remains to be confirmed, BLMís 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 companyís Plan of Operations, consider alternatives to the plan, or impose design changes to the plan.
Staff contact: Alan Stanfill
October 1998 report on this case
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