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Meeting on copper mine set for Monday

The public will have a chance Monday to weigh in on one company’s plans to reopen a defunct copper mine in southwest New Mexico.

New Mexico Copper Corp. has been working through regulatory processes for eight years since buying the shuttered mine in 2010.

New Mexico Copper Corp. has been working through regulatory processes for eight years, since buying the shuttered mine in 2010.

Monday’s public hearing is on the company’s groundwater discharge permit filed with the state Environment Department. The mine would generate up to 25.2 million gallons of tailings slurry per day, which will be deposited in a lined storage pond.

“I think that we’ve worked very, very hard over the years in developing our plans,” said Jeffrey Smith, chief operating officer for THEMAC Resources Group Ltd., NMCC’s parent company. “We’ve spent a lot of time designing this project to protect the environment.”

The site is located around 20 miles from Hillsboro where a briefly operated copper mine from 1982 still sits.

The mine was owned by Quintana Minerals, which went out of business after a steep drop in copper prices in the 1980s.

Today, Smith said copper’s future is looking bright, with analysts even predicting shortages.

Smith said the company’s $400 million investment would result in 270 to 300 jobs, which they hope to keep local.

Among the recoverable resources at the site are 628 million pounds of copper, 227,000 ounces of gold, 6 million ounces of silver and 16 million pounds of molybdenum.

Allyson Siwik, executive director of the Gila Resources Information Group, said she worries the company has not planned for enough groundwater monitoring wells, which could allow undetected contamination.

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center also has concerns about the project.

“At the hearing, we will be presenting detailed technical testimony on the risks that the mine will pose to groundwater, to the environment generally, and to adjacent property is the draft groundwater discharge permit is issued and the mine begins operation,” said Charles de Saillan, staff attorney at the center, in a news release.

NMCC is still fighting for adequate water rights – Smith says they need 6,000 acre-feet a year – in court.

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