Amigos Bravos

Because Water Matters — Since 1988

We have a vision of New Mexico’s rivers and streams running so clear and clean that you can bend a knee to the water, cup your hands, and drink without fear.

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Chevron Questa Mine (continued) (legacy)

Regulatory Permits

Public participation in regulatory permitting is critical to holding Molycorp/Chevron Mining accountable for its impacts to the Red River watershed and the downstream community of Questa.

The Chevron Mining Questa molybdenum mine is scheduled for Superfund cleanup and also operates under a number of state and federal permits:

Superfund Cleanup

Agency: United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 (Dallas,TX)

On December 20 2010, EPA issued its Record of Decision (ROD) regarding the Superfund cleanup strategy for the mine.

On January 6, 2010, EPA released a proposed Superfund cleanup plan for the Chevron Mining Inc. (formerly Molycorp) molybdenum mine in Questa, NM.  EPA is expected to issue a Record of Decision by the end of the year.

Closeout and Reclamation Plan

Agency: New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Mining and Minerals Division (MMD), pursuant to the New Mexico Mining Act.

Comments: On June 3, 2002, in a truly momentous convergence of two years of work by the New Mexico Mining Act Network, the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division (MMD) approved and signed Molycorp's closeout plan and permit for the molybdenum mine in Questa, NM. The permit creates a number of precedents, some of which go beyond the requirements of the New Mexico Mining Act.

Most significantly the permit:

  • Establishes the highest reclamation bond ever posted by a mining company.
  • Reduces the permitted mining area by 2,247 acres.
  • Mandates that Molycorp spend a minimum of $3 million a year in early reclamation to begin this summer (2002) instead of waiting untill the mine closes.
  • Requires a comprehensive and aggressive revegetation test plot program that establishes 100 acres of test plots by 2003.
  • Establishes a Technical Review Committee, consisting of representatives of all the stakeholders, which will continue to meet and critically assess restoration progress through the revision of the permit in 2004.
  • Requires a revision of the permit if wildlife is being negatively impacted.
  • Mandates partial reclamation of the open pit.

Status:

The Permit was to be revised in 2008 but is now on hold due to the Superfund cleanup process taking precedence.

05/24/2002 — Final MMD mining permit issued.

12/31/2001 — MMD approved Final Closeout and Reclamation Plan due.

11/30/2001 — Tentative date for public hearing on Financial Assurance Proposal for Closeout Plan.

08/01/2001 — Date for public hearing on waste rock and mill site portion of the Closeout Plan, to take place the same week as NMED's public hearing on the DP-1055 Modification.

02/05/2001 — MMD issued final closeout permit for tailings site.

08/01/2000 — Tentative date for public hearing on tailings portion of the Closeout Plan, to take place the same week as NMED's public hearing on the DP-933 Revised Closure Plan.

05/16/2000 — Amigos Bravos submits its own Full Reclamation and Closure Plan.

12/30/1999 — Two-year extension approved with Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA) component to include Amigos Bravos on the Technical Review Committee.

12/17/1998 — Amigos Bravos request for public hearing and comments.

08/06/1997 — MMD/NMED request for more information regarding the Questa Mine Closeout Plan. Permit No. TA001RE.

Groundwater Discharge Permit, DP-1055 (waste rock and mine site)

Agency: New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Groundwater Protection and Remediation Bureau, pursuant to the New Mexico Water Quality Act.

Comments: This permit is one key to protecting surface water quality in the Red River by preventing contamination of the hydrologically-connected groundwater beneath Molycorp's 328 million tons of waste rock. Molycorp repeatedly challenged NMED's authority to regulate this discharge, but, after a "Notice of Violation" from NMED on 11/10/98, Molycorp finally lost the argument in an appeal before the NM Water Quality Control Commission in 01/99. Acknowledging the groundwater-surface water connection makes Molycorp liable for extensive surface water pollution in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, Currently financial assurance bonds covering this permit total $129 million.

Status:

The Permit was to be renewed in 2008 but is now on hold due to the Superfund cleanup process taking precedence.

11/15/2000 — Final DP-1055 Permit issued by NMED.

04/03/2000 — Tentative date for first public hearing on DP-1055, primarily to consider interim financial assurance (intention is to get at least provisional permit and interim Financial Assurance bond in place ASAP).

04/05/1999 — Amigos Bravos request for public hearing and comments.

03/25/1998 — Letter from NMED to Molycorp, March 25, 1998

Re: Request for Additional Information, Molycorp Mine Waste Rock, DP-1055

Groundwater Discharge Permit, DP-933 (tailings area) Revised Closure Plan

Agency: New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Groundwater Protection and Remediation Bureau, pursuant to the New Mexico Water Quality Act.
 

Comments: Final Order of 2/26/97 stipulates specific requirements and conditions, including that "Molycorp will re-evaluate the seepage extraction and collection system after a period of one year" to make sure groundwater or surface water are not being impacted. Since then, contamination in exceedence of water quality standards has been detected down-gradient of the collection system, according to Molycorp's 9/30/98 Evaluation of Tailings Area Seepage Interceptor System. NMED has yet to respond to that Evaluation. Currently financial assurance bonds covering this permit total $23 million.

Status:

Negotiations on the permit have been completed, but the new permit has not been issued due to the Superfund cleanup process taling precedence.

09/2001 — Molycorp submits application for renewal for DP-933. The current permit expires 02/26/2002.

07/31/2000 — Tentative date for public hearing on the DP-933 Revised Closure Plan, to take place the same week as MMD's public hearings on the tailings portion of the Closeout Plan.

11/11/1998 — Amigos Bravos request for public hearing and comments.

02/26/1997 — Final Order, resulting from public hearing, signed by NMED Secretary.

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit

Agency: US EPA Region 6, pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act.

NPDES ID: NM0022306

Comments: A renewal of the NPDES permit for Molycorp was issued on December 8, 2000 and became effective on February 1, 2001. The previous permit recognized several point sources at both the waste rock and tailings areas, but not the most significant discharge of acid and metal-laden seepage coming out of the waste rock into the Red River. A 2/98 EPA report determined that Molycorp's 230 million tons of waste rock constitute a point-source of pollution that is hydrologically connected to the river, and therefore subject for the first time to NPDES regulation. A 10/99 report from the New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee reaffirmed those findings. The new NPDES permit now identifies seeps deriving from the Waste Rock Dumps as pollution point sources, and requires that Molycorp intercept 15 million pounds of heavy metals presently estimated to be discharging to the Red River from these seeps annually.

Status:
2006 -- EPA issues a new permit

12/08/2000 — Final NPDES permit issued by EPA.

Effective: February 1, 2001 through January 31, 2005

10/1999 — New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee report Geochemistry of the Red River Stream System Before and After Open-Pit Mining, Questa Area, Taos County, New Mexico.

03/25/1999 — Amigos Bravos files suit against EPA under the Clean Water Act.

02/13/1998 — EPA's incriminating Report on Hydrological Connection Associated With Molycorp Mining Activity, Questa, New Mexico.

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