About the Project
Pinto Valley Mine is located approximately 8 miles west of Miami, Arizona in Gila County, on private and National Forest System lands in the Globe Ranger District. Pinto Valley Mining Corp (PVMC) operates the mine along with adjacent milling and processing operations, tailings disposal areas, and waste rock disposal.
PVMC acquired the Pinto Valley Mine in 2013. In May 2016, PVMC submitted a proposed mining plan of operations to the Tonto National Forest. PVMC is proposing to expand existing mining operations in the open pit and tailings storage facilities from private lands onto the Tonto National Forest, extend the mine life for approximately 19 years, incorporate legacy encroachments, and consolidate prior expired and/or non-transferable authorizations that are reasonably incident to extraction, transportation, and processing of mineral deposits on its mining claims. The proposed project would result in an estimated 1,317 acres of new disturbance (229 acres on the Tonto National Forest and 1,087 acres on private land owned by PVMC) and approval of 566 acres of existing disturbance on National Forest System lands.
A Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS to evaluate and disclose the potential environmental effects from approval of PVMC's mining plan of operations was published in the Federal Register on March 28, 2017.
The Pinto Valley Mine is within one of the oldest and most productive mining districts in the United States. Since the district's first recorded production in 1878, more than 15 billion pounds of copper have been produced in the mining district. The general site of the Pinto Valley Mine has been mined by various entities over the past century. The Open Pit at the Pinto Valley Mine was developed in 1972 and became operational in 1974. The Open Pit eventually consumed the adjacent Castle Dome Mine, which was actively mined from 1943 to 1953. The Pinto Valley Mine has operated continuously since 1974 with the exception of a short period of curtailed operations in 1983, and curtailments from 1998 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2012. Pinto Valley Mining Corp.'s annual copper production over the past 6 years has ranged from approximately 116 to 151 million pounds.
Although the majority of the Pinto Valley Mine is located on private property, certain facilities and operations are located on National Forest System lands. These uses were authorized by the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management (later transferred to the Forest Service in 1989) through rights-of-way, plans of operations, special use permits, or letter agreements. Authorizations related to Pinto Valley Mine date from as early as the 1940s and have been amended, updated, and re-authorized over the years. However, some of the former authorizations have since expired or were nontransferable, which led to ongoing discussions between the Forest Service and prior operators regarding land exchanges and consolidated plans. The 2016 proposed mining plan of operations is presented as the proposed action in the Pinto Valley Mine EIS, which remains consistent with the long-standing request of the Forest Service to consolidate all prior authorizations and to address existing encroachments from previous operators. Pinto Valley Mining Corp.'s 2016 proposed mining plan of operations also included a proposal for an expansion onto National Forest System lands for activities such as mineral development and extraction, in addition to reasonably incident uses such as tailings deposition, power lines, and water lines related to processing the copper and molybdenum deposit that extends from its private land onto its mining claims on National Forest System lands.
Proposed Action Summary
Tonto National Forest officials selected the proposed action, with application of monitoring and mitigation measures, as the preferred alternative. The proposed action encompasses the following broad categories of actions:
- Consolidation and authorization of previously authorized activities and permitted disturbances on 566 acres of National Forest System lands at the Pinto Valley Mine. Power lines, pipelines, roads, and other facilities and infrastructure on National Forest System lands at the Pinto Valley Mine are integral to the mining operations at the mine. As such, their authorization is most appropriate under a consolidated mining plan of operations.
- Authorization of new operations on 229 acres of National Forest System lands including expansion of the Open Pit and Tailings Storage Facilities Nos. 3 and 4, and construction or relocation of linear features (access roads, electrical power distribution lines, pipelines).
- Authorization of existing legacy encroachments on approximately 29 acres of National Forest System lands from prior mine operators associated with activities appurtenant to mining, such as roads, an equipment laydown yard, storm water ponds, powder magazines, and a water pipeline and stand.
In addition to the activities described above that require Forest Service approval, the integrated mining plan at the Pinto Valley Mine also includes Pinto Valley Mining Corp.'s select actions on private lands that support ongoing and expanded mining operations. While the Forest Service does not have authority to regulate activities on private land, the actions on private lands are described and analyzed in accordance with 40 CFR 1508.25. These other activities on private lands are interdependent parts of the integrated mining operations at the Pinto Valley Mine, they are closely related to the proposed operations on National Forest System lands, and they generally would not occur unless the Forest Service takes action to approve previous authorizations.