BLM Approved Newmont Mine Near Battle Mountain

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Newmont Mining Corp. has cleared a big hurdle in its bid to open a major mine near Battle Mountain.

The Bureau of Land Management's Battle Mountain office approved the proposed Phoenix Project 12 miles south of the struggling mining town. The gold and copper mine is expected to employ up to 300 workers.

"I think it's definitely going to boost the local economy and local businesses, and it will be a stabilizing influence on Lander County," said Joel Lenz, project manager for the mine and president of the Battle Mountain Chamber of Commerce .

BLM spokeswoman Pam Jarnecke said a 30-day appeal period won't begin until the document is published in the Federal Register, and she's unsure when that will be. BLM's Washington, D.C. office must review the document.

Scott Santti, general manager of the Lone Tree-Phoenix Complex for Newmont, said he was confident that any problems have been ironed out, including reclamation plans.

"We don't see any issues. Everything should go forward fine," he told the Elko Daily Free Press.

Newmont's board has approved spending up to $210 million to develop the operation.

Plans call for detailed engineering to begin at the site next year and for construction of a mill and other facilities to start in 2005.

Newmont officials said the mine's work force will number 250 to 300 once the mine is in full production, and most of the workers will come from its Lone Tree Mine west of Battle Mountain.

Lone Tree is expected to run out of ore by the end of 2005.

Santti said he foresees Phoenix's mine life running through 2020, but "so much depends on gold prices" and other factors.

Phoenix has more than 6 million ounces of gold reserves, and Newmont plans to produce about 400,000 ounces of gold per year from the site.

The Phoenix proposal first went to BLM in 1995, but later ran into problems when the BLM and Environmental Protection Agency clashed over Newmont's financial arrangements for long-term monitoring of the site.

The agencies eventually worked out the differences.

Phoenix is a historic mining site that has potential for long-term environmental impacts.