A proposal by a foreign mining corporation to begin prospecting for renewed mining activities near Pecos has been met with substantial opposition from local communities and municipalities concerned about potential environmental impacts on the surrounding watershed.
Now, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is lobbying against the idea in a letter sent to the chief of the United States Forest Service in Washington, DC, on Thursday, September 26.
"My administration has heard from many New Mexicans who are deeply concerned by the prospect of mining resuming in the Pecos Valley, which contains the Tererro remediation site," Lujan Grisham wrote, drawing attention to the volume of public comments received by the governor's office in recent months.
Lujan Grisham expressed her own opposition to the proposed mining exploration in the Pecos on the grounds that previous mining activities at the old Tererro site have cost the state millions in initial and ongoing remediation efforts and caused significant ecological and human health hazards in the region.
New Mexico contributed $7 million to the $36 million spent in remediating the site, which continues to cost the state money in monitoring and sampling efforts "with no end in sight," Lujan Grisham stated in the letter. This year alone, she wrote, the state will spend an estimated $1 million on environmental upkeep of the old site.
Renewed mining efforts present "unacceptable risks to an area still recovering from damages inflicted by previous mining activities," she wrote, calling on the Forest Service to conduct a full environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate the potential consequences of a new exploration project, adding that "the Forest Service's approval of this industrial activity would clearly be a major action, which could significantly and negatively affect the quality of the environment in the Pecos Valley for ecological, recreational, and economic activities."
Lujan Grisham also called out the company behind the proposed new Tererro project, New World Cobalt (Comexico LLC), for likely underestimating the number of acres that will be disturbed by the construction of 30 drill holes and pads used for preliminary mineral exploration. The New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division has estimated the project will cause a greater acreage of disturbance than claimed by the company.
The governor's letter comes just weeks after both Santa Fe and San Miguel counties passed new mining regulations that strengthen environmental protections and hold companies responsible for a greater extent of the environmental assessments and remediation efforts required.
Before New World Cobalt can break ground in the Pecos, the firm must submit cultural, biological and hydrological reports to the Forest Service and to the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department detailing potential impacts of its proposed activities. The reports are under review by the Forest Service and go next to the state's Mining and Minerals Division to continue the application. The MMD is currently accepting comments from the public as well as state and federal agencies in regards to the initial exploration proposal.
Once the reports have been submitted, New World Cobalt will have to conduct public meetings and collect comments during a public scoping period. Local community organizers tell SFR they expect these meetings could take place by the end of the year.