The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is soliciting public input on a proposal from Comexico LLC to conduct exploratory core drilling on previously identified mineral deposits – primarily copper, lead and zinc – on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Comexico, a registered New Mexico corporation and the American subsidiary of Australian company New World Cobalt, is not proposing to mine the Jones Hill area north of the village of Pecos. Comexico’s business model is to conduct exploration on previously identified deposits and market the prospect to other investors/companies for development.
Public comments received by Jan. 17, 2020, will help determine the scope of the Comexico project, including the SFNF’s management of Comexico’s exploration activities. The SFNF will host a public meeting on Thursday, Dec. 12, to share information about the Comexico proposal and the NEPA process and to give the public an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments. The public meeting will be at Pecos High School on NM State Highway 63 from 6-8 p.m.
Under the plan of operations submitted to the Forest Service and the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Comexico proposes using existing roads and drill sites to drill up to 30 core holes on less than 5 acres to evaluate the ore body and its commercial viability. The project area was previously explored for minerals in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s but not actively mined. Historic mining and mill sites that were active in the upper Pecos Valley from the 1880s to the 1930s contaminated soil and water and required remediation.
Federal mining regulations and laws, including the General Mining Law of 1872, as amended, require the Forest Service to allow mineral exploration and development on National Forest System lands. The surface-disturbing drilling activities proposed in Comexico’s plan of operations require analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Forest Service can add mitigation measures and modifications to Comexico’s plan of operations to minimize potential environmental impacts.
Based on the expected degree of disturbance to vegetation, soil, water, air and wildlife, the SFNF has determined that Comexico’s exploratory core drilling proposal fits under an established Categorical Exclusion (CE) described in 36 CFR 220.6(e)(8): “Short-term (1 year or less) mineral, energy, or geophysical investigations and their incidental support activities that may require cross-country travel by vehicles and equipment, construction of less than 1 mile of low standard road, or use and minor repair of existing roads.” Any future proposal to mine the Jones Hill area would require further NEPA analysis and documentation in an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The area surrounding the project site is partially within an inventoried roadless area and adjacent to wetlands. The project area is within designated critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and the endangered Holy Ghost ipomopsis as well as habitat for the goshawk, peregrine falcon and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The larger landscape includes cultural resources important to several federally recognized tribes. The SFNF will require modifications to Comexico’s plan to mitigate any impacts on these resources.
The scoping letter and other documents related to the Comexico proposal are posted on the project webpage. Comments specific to Comexico’s plan of operations can be submitted online, by mail, in person, or by email. The public comment period ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. All comments received during scoping will be considered in the SFNF’s environmental analysis of the project. Interested parties may submit comments by:
- Submitting a comment online through the Comment and Analysis Response Application (CARA). This is the preferred method to comment. To access CARA, go to the project webpage (https://www.fs.usda.gov/project?project=56733), click on “Comment/Object on Project” under the “Get Connected” heading on the right side of the page, and use the online form to submit your comment.
- Sending an email to email@example.com with “Comexico Proposal” in the subject line. If you are attaching a document, please use .doc, .txt, .pdf, or .rtf formats only.
- Sending postal mail to: Santa Fe National Forest, Pecos/Las Vegas District
P.O. Drawer 429
Pecos, NM 87552