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: Charlie de Saillan, Jaimie Park

SUMMARY:

The Copper Flat Mine case is two separate but related issues: 1) a water rights case that will determine the mine operator’s access to water and 2) various mining-related issues. A District Court judge has severely restricted the amount of water rights the mine operator (NMCC) can claim; there will be an appeal and NMCC has filed an application for other groundwater. On the mining side, the Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) in November 2015 and is evaluating whether to proceed with a supplemental draft statement (SEIS) or with a final environmental impact statement and decision. New Mexico Copper Corporation also submitted a mine operating permit application and a groundwater discharge permit application with state agencies. Those applications will have 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.