Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Lara Love
Publisher & Editor 

Bentonite mine expansion authorized

 


The Bureau of Land Management Worland Field Office has issued a decision authorizing the expansion of a bentonite mining project in Hot Springs County. 

Wyo-Ben, Inc. plans to extend bentonite mining operations and concurrent reclamation of their 108T project located approximately 5 miles northwest of Thermopolis. The mine plan is a progression of the existing 108T project, extending onto adjacent public lands totaling 376 acres. The expected life of mine and concurrent reclamation is 15 years.

According to the BLM issued Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) document, based upon review of the Environmental Assessment (EA) and supporting documents, it has been determined the project is not a major federal action and will not significantly affect the quality of human environment, individually or cumulatively with other actions in the general area. No environmental effects meet the definition of significance in context or intensity and do not exceed those effects described in the Bighorn Basin RMP/FEIS. Therefore, no environmental impact statement is necessary.

According to the decision record, in addition to design features already implemented in the mine plan, temporal and spatial restrictions are emplaced. Regarding Sage Grouse, no new surface disturbance or overburden removal will occur between March 15-June 30 in areas within two miles of active leks. Other cultural/historic and visual resources stipulations are also included.

The FONSI and decision record are available at http://bit.ly/2coIDc3.

BLM officials and Wyo-Ben, Inc. representatives held a public meeting in Thermopolis on November 10 to discuss the project. According to the BLM, they received 35 comments during the public comment period. Those comments, as well as comments from those in attendance, were addressed during the meeting.

At the public meeting, Holly Elliot, a specialist on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the BLM, said many of the comments generally said “no mining.” Elliot added that six comments contained some real concerns including visual impacts to tourism, safety of trucks entering the highway and the impact on wildlife and sage grouse habitat in the area. Results issued from the NEPA required internal scoping found minimal impact to wildlife and tourism.

During the earlier public meeting, Adam Babcock, Visual Resources Management specialist, said traffic patterns on Highway 120 were studied and Wyo-Ben and WYDOT are working toward a plan that will be the safest for everyone involved.

For more information, please contact Elliott at 307-347-5100 or helliott@blm.gov.

 

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