Case Work: Water

Copper Flat Mine Permitting

LOCATION: Sierra County
INITIATION DATE: May 2011
CLIENTS/PARTNERS: Mine-Related Permits: Turner Enterprises (Ladder Ranch)  |  Water Rights: 14 individuals and the Hillsboro Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association
OPPOSING PARTIES: New Mexico Copper Corporation
STATUS: Ongoing
ATTORNEYS: Mine-Related Permits: Charles de Saillan, Jaimie Park  |  Water Rights: Jon Block

SUMMARY:

The effort to re-open Copper Flat Mine involves two separate but related issues: 1) a water rights case that will determine the mine operator’s access to water and 2) several issues related to the mine’s operating permit. On the water side, a District Court judge severely restricted the amount of water rights the mine operator (NMCC) can claim; the decision was appealed by NMCC and our clients have filed a cross-appeal arguing that the decision should have found no water rights available to the mine. On the mining side, the Bureau of Land Management has to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS). New Mexico Copper Corporation submitted a mine operating permit application to the Mining and Minerals Division and a groundwater discharge permit application to the NM Environment Department. Those applications had hearings in September and October 2018. The main issue with this proposed mine is its potential impact to ground and surface water quality and quantity in Sierra County.

LATEST NEWS:

10/22/2018 – There is a hearing Oct 23-4 (possibly extended in to Oct 25-6) on the Mining & Minerals Division mine operating permit for Copper Flat Mine.  There is an updated flyer and talking points.  Comments are due by Oct 24.  The Gila Resources Information Project has a sign-on letter calling for MMD to deny the permit.
09/07/2018 – There are two hearings scheduled for Copper Flat Mine: an NMED discharge permit hearing from September 24-28; and a Mining & Minerals Division mine operating permit from October 23-26. There are hearing and comment details in this flyer and talking points to use for help with public comment (the talking points on the mine permit may change slightly depending on the NMED discharge permit)
05/17/2018 – Letter from Pat Gordon, Texas Rio Grande Compact Commission, to Doug Haywood, Project Lead for the Bureau of Land Management, commenting on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and stating that “Texas has serious concerns regarding the Mine’s affect upon the quality and quantity of water” Texas will get from New Mexico under the Rio Grande Compact
04/12/2018 – Letter from Pat Gordon, Texas Rio Grande Compact Commission, to NM State Engineer Tom Blaine alerting the State that NMCC’s application for new water and its inadequate plans for offets of depletions to the Rio Grande will negatively impact New Mexico’s obligations under the Rio Grande Compact to deliver water to Texas
12/28/2017 – Decision by Third Judicial District Court (Las Cruces), reducing water rights claimed by NMCC from approximately 7,500 acre feet (af) to approximately 900af, which is not sufficient to carry out mining operations as planned
04/04/2016 – NMELC files Turner Ranch Properties L.P.‘s Comments to Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Copper Flat Copper Mine.