THIS WEEK: New Mexico Copper wants a permit to dump 8 billion gallons of contaminated waste every year, threatening our water supply.
The New Mexico Environment Department is holding a public hearing on Discharge Permit-1840 this whole week — Sept. 24 through 28 — beginning each day at 9 a.m. at the Ralph Edwards Auditorium on Fourth Street in Truth or Consequences.
This permit for Copper Flat Mine outside Hillsboro would allow New Mexico Copper Corp. to discharge 24 million gallons per day of contaminated wastewater that “may move directly or indirectly into the groundwater” and “may contain water contaminants or toxic pollutants elevated above the standards” of New Mexico’s Clean Water Act.
Public comments will be taken between expert testimony any day of the hearing, but time for public comments is set aside from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Please attend and speak up to oppose this dangerous permit.
Written comments will also be taken: Email Hearing Clerk John Baca, firstname.lastname@example.org , with the subject line “In the Matter of Copper Flat Mine’s Discharge Permit 1840, Docket No. 8WB-18-06(P).”
Some of the many reasons to reject this permit (feel free to use any or all in your spoken or written comment):
1. The discharge (113 million tons) will be contained in a 600-acre (1 square mile) tailing pond behind a 2-mile sand dam. Even a minor break in the retaining dam or its synthetic liner system can cause catastrophic damage to surface water and groundwater to the east and south of the mine, endangering the Caballo Reservoir and the Rio Grande and therefore all municipal and agricultural water users in the Mesilla Valley. This threat to people and the economy will exist until two decades past closure, when the 24 billion gallons of wastewater (that once was drinking water) is finally evaporated and the tailing pond buried. Unlike agricultural, municipal, or domestic wastewater, this water will not return to the soil to be reused.
2. The pit will be 2,800 feet across and 900 feet deep at cessation of mining and have a 22-acre pitlake at its bottom with water that many state agencies think will be polluted. That pitlake will be left in perpetuity, constituting a deadly hazard to birds, bats, and animals forever. Being hundreds of feet below groundwater level, it will perpetually be a drain on water supply even if it does not contaminate groundwater.
3. New Mexico Copper has only enough water rights to operate three months every year. While the company projects an 11-year operation, in reality it will mine intermittently for decades. During that extended period, Copper Flat Mine remains unreclaimed, the polluted pitlake and the tailings pond will be a constant threat to New Mexico wildlife if not to New Mexico groundwater.
4. Eleven years of mining will require 23 billion gallons of water pumped from wells near the Rio Grande River. The pumping will damage the river’s flow, raise New Mexico’s liabilities in Texas’s lawsuit challenging our state’s management of the river, and may cost New Mexico taxpayers millions of dollars.