On May 28, 2014, instead of announcing the new exploration proposal, Kinross included it in a water right change application in a public notice. Very few people are likely to look up the legal coordinates provided in the public notice, nor recognize a new exploration project under the guise of a water rights request…
On the same day that Kinross announced withdrawal of the Buckhorn Mountain Exploration Project, the Okanogan County Water Conservancy Board published a public notice in the newspaper inviting comments on Crown Resources/Kinross application to change one of their water rights from dust control and irrigation to include mineral exploration and mining. The exploration described in the application includes a portion of the larger exploration proposal that was withdrawn. It includes properties above Chesaw and new areas on either side of Toroda Creek Rd near the old mining town of Bodie (see map at right). Crown/Kinross is also asking that the seasonal water right be extended to year-round, which would be an expansion of the water right in the basin. New appropriations for water rights in the Toroda Creek basin have been denied since the 1950’s.
Crown/Kinross is seeking to change a seasonal-use irrigation water right, in which much of the water goes back into Toroda Creek, to a year-round use for exploration drilling in which the water can mix with drilling fluids and contaminants normally tied up in the rock, and can pollute the groundwater. The contaminants could be released into groundwater via the exploration drilling and as the wastewater pit settles into the ground. Some of the water would be used outside of the Toroda Creek basin, further depleting an already over appropriated stream, adversely impacting senior water rights holders and the public interest.
The impacts of exploration and mining must be considered in a cumulative context. The exploration process involves releasing contaminants that were tied up in rock into surface and groundwater. Unaddressed concerns that were brought up in the Buckhorn Mine environmental review process have ended up causing significant water quality problems on the ground, when the goal should be to understand the impacts before actions are taken. Kinross should control the pollution emanating from the Buckhorn Mine before it proposes to expand its operations. In addition, the company will not build good faith with the community by concealing a new exploration proposal within a water rights change application.
The map at left shows the areas Kinross is proposing for “places of use,” in the change of water right application, with “use” being exploration and mining. Rather than transparently communicating their intentions, the company pulled the almost 10,000 acre Buckhorn Exploration project off the table while simultaneously applying to “change their water right” to include large exploration projects. The areas depicted on this map include some of the areas from the original Buckhorn Exploration proposal as well as new areas near Bodie.