Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
California: Development of Glamis Gold Corporation Mine (Imperial County)
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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 1972 (Criteria 2 and 3).
- The Quechan Tribe have indicated that project impacts will destroy the tribeís ability to practice their traditional religion and culture (Criterion 4).
On May 8, Council member Ray Soon and Council staff met with representatives of the Quechan Tribe to discuss impacts of the proposed Glamis Gold Corporation Mine. Tribal members provided a tour of the project area, where properties, landscape features, and characteristics important to the religious and
cultural practices of the tribe were reviewed and discussed. During the meeting, Mr. Soon clarified the
Councilís role in the project deliberations and discussed the options available to the Council when it came to issuing recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
On July 14, a Council member working group, Council staff, and representatives from BLM met with representatives of the Glamis Gold 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. They stated that the mining industry is fairly inexperienced in the Section 106 process and that it would be in everyoneís interest to use the process for finding a mutually satisfactory resolution. Executive Director John Fowler assured the company officials that the working group would meet within 30 to 45 days to assess current information and chart a course of action designed to bring the review of the project to closure.
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 BLM's 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 State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) 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 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 working group representing Council members to provide advice and direction to the staff: Dick Sanderson, Environmental Protection Agency; Elizabeth Merritt, National Trust for Historic Preservation; and Ray Soon, Council Native Hawaiian member. In March, an onsite meeting and public meeting was held. More that 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.
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, 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.
Staff contact: Alan Stanfill
April 1999 report on this case
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