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Community Collaboration Results in Better Plan for Long Canyon

When Newmont purchased Nevada’s Long Canyon gold deposit from Fronteer Gold in 2011, we were prepared for the detailed permitting process required for developing the mine. The process includes a broad continuum of environmental and social requirements that must be met before proceeding.

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Newmont purchased Long Canyon in 2011.

In March 2014, we entered the final phase of this initial permitting process when, in response to a Plan of Operation we submitted in 2012, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The release of the DEIS commenced a 45-day public comment period during which community members are invited to offer input that will ultimately help shape the development of the project.

This isn’t the only time the public has been invited to weigh in on Long Canyon. With the goal of transparency and inclusiveness, Newmont opened public information offices in the nearby towns of Wells and West Wendover soon after developing our plan for Long Canyon. The offices provide community members with an opportunity and a place to discuss project-specific issues directly with company representatives. Other opportunities for input have included a series of public scoping meetings hosted by the BLM in an effort to identify potential issues and concerns that may require further analysis.

As Newmont had hoped, the open dialogue and free exchange of information and ideas are having a positive effect on the process and the project. In fact, Dan Anderson, Regional Environmental Affairs Manager at Newmont, said collaboration with public and private entities has resulted in a better and smarter mine design.

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Drilling work takes place at Long Canyon in 2012.

For example, after receiving feedback from West Wendover officials that the proposed location of the mine’s processing facilities was too close to Big Springs, the city’s drinking water supply, we went back to the drawing board. We had already taken measures to ensure the processing facilities would not affect the city’s water supply, but wanted West Wendover residents to feel as confident about our plan as we did. After additional assessment, our engineers developed the North Alternative, a revised plan in which the processing facility is located further away from Big Springs and further from an active lek for the Greater Sage-Grouse, a threatened and endangered candidate species in Nevada.

Other feedback gathered through community outreach included concerns about a deer migration corridor near the pit. After consulting with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, a cooperating agency on the Long Canyon project, Newmont decided to move the proposed location of the waste dump away from the migration corridor so that the deer can wander back and forth unimpeded.

While it’s not always possible to incorporate changes recommended by the public into design plans, Long Canyon offered unique opportunities to collaborate on potential solutions. As a result, if the plan is ultimately approved, Newmont will follow through on its commitment to take measures to avoid or limit potential impacts to cultural resources (Native American archaeological artifacts), visual resources (the appearance of the mine from an adjacent Interstate highway), air quality (dust from trucks), socioeconomics (local employment), and recreation (hunting, hiking, etc.). In aggregate, these and other planned improvements minimize the project’s footprint and, according to the BLM, reduce its environmental impact.

“Our approach on this project has been different than in the past,” said Anderson, who explained that baseline studies were conducted earlier in the process, and engagement with the community, the BLM, and other state and local agencies was initiated sooner. “We’ve learned that there are ways to facilitate permitting in a more reasonable fashion through greater stakeholder engagement.”

Following the 45-day public comment period, the BLM will analyze and address all public comments before reaching its final decision on the future of Long Canyon. If the BLM accepts the North Alternative, Newmont remains on track for the project to be ready for execution in 2015 with full-scale production by 2017.

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