CHESAW, Wash. – A state permit that would allow a proposed Okanogan County gold mine to discharge treated wastewater is being challenged by environmental groups.
The Okanogan Highlands Alliance and the Washington Environmental Council filed an appeal of the Buckhorn Mine’s discharge permit with the state Department of Ecology. The two groups said the permit doesn’t do enough to protect surface- and groundwater from potential pollution and fails to provide enough monitoring wells.
The permit, issued last month, was one of the final permitting hurdles for the underground mine.
Water has been a sticking point for the Buckhorn project, which was initially proposed as an open-pit mine. In 2000, the state Pollution Control Hearings Board rescinded the mine’s water quality certification, ruling that the surrounding water quality wasn’t adequately protected.
The Buckhorn deposit contains 1 million ounces of gold, which Kinross Gold Corp. is proposing to mine over a period of 7 ½ years.
More than half of the Buckhorn Mine’s facilities have been constructed, Lauren Roberts, vice president and general manager of Kinross’ Kettle River operations, said in a recent interview. The mine, near the Canadian border, is expected to employ 168 workers when it’s in full operation.
However, an opening date is difficult to project at this point because the mine’s environmental impact statement is being challenged in court, Roberts said.