The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) today announced that it has received a Plan of Operations from Comexico LLC, the American subsidiary of New World Cobalt, to conduct mineral exploration on previously identified deposits on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District. Comexico also submitted an exploration permit application to the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD).
Comexico’s application proposes core drilling in the vicinity of Jones Hill near Terrero, NM, to identify base and precious metal deposits for mining. In April, Comexico submitted two notices of intent (NOIs) to the SFNF requesting access to Forest Service roads that are closed to the public to stake the mining claim, collect surface samples and begin geophysical testing.
The Comexico operation is authorized under the General Mining Act of 1872, as amended, and Forest Service regulations on locatable minerals. Since the activities requested in the NOIs are non-surface disturbing, they do not require analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The core drilling activities in the Plan of Operations require NEPA analysis to determine the environmental impact on resources. The level of NEPA analysis will depend on the scope of Comexico operations and the degree of disturbance to vegetation, soil, water, air or wildlife. According to Comexico’s public notice, the company expects the drilling operation to impact an estimated 2.2 acres.
The SFNF has provided Comexico with a list of measures to protect plants and wildlife, including the endangered Holy Ghost ipomopsis and at-risk species like the Mexican spotted owl, northern goshawk and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. According to its application to NM ENMRD, Comexico has hired a third party contractor to conduct sensitive/critical species surveys, general biology surveys, hydro-geologic surveys, and cultural surveys to identify resources that may need protective measures.
While the SFNF can require Comexico to implement measures to protect resources, under the 1872 mining act the SFNF does not have the authority to prohibit the exploration and development of mineral resources.