Home » US Forest Service Advances Hermosa’s Mining Permit Process

US Forest Service Advances Hermosa’s Mining Permit Process

Public Input Sought on Environmental Impact in Arizona

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

South32, a multinational mining and metals business, is leading the Hermosa project, and the US Forest Service (USFS) has started the federal permitting process. This is a major milestone in an extensive environmental evaluation required by the National Environmental Policy Act to supervise the project’s construction in Arizona’s Patagonia Mountains, some 80 kilometers southeast of Tucson.

The “scoping process,” which was initiated by a notice of intent that the federal government just released, is how the process got started. In addition to outlining South32’s project plans, this notice provides a forum for community members to share their thoughts and offer input. The general public is welcome to provide feedback on the extent of the analysis and pertinent issues that the USFS should take into account when crafting the Environmental Impact Statement for Hermosa. This public consultation phase is scheduled to remain open until June 10, 2024.

The zinc-lead-silver Taylor sulphide deposit and the zinc-manganese-silver Clark oxide deposit make up the distinctive composition of Hermosa. Beyond these, the project contains a larger land package that includes the Flux prospect and the Peake exploration target, both of which have intriguing copper, lead, zinc, and silver contents.

Hermosa is noteworthy because it is the only advanced mining project in the United States that can produce manganese and zinc, two essential minerals identified by the federal government. Hermosa was the first city in the US to be placed in the FAST-41 permitting process, a program meant to speed up infrastructure projects, last year, in recognition of its strategic significance.

The current scoping process is important because it aims to define the parameters of the environmental analysis, assess alternatives that meet the project’s requirements, and collect information that will assist the USFS in determining the possible environmental effects of extending additional infrastructure onto Forest Service lands. This serves as a prelude to a more thorough assessment that will take place over the course of the following two years and involve numerous rounds of public comment and in-depth conversations.

The Hermosa project’s director of permits and clearances, Brent Musslewhite, underlined the project’s dedication to sustainable mining methods. Musslewhite claims, “South32’s Hermosa project is built from the ground up to establish a new benchmark in the industry. It seeks to drastically lessen its environmental impact by using a small surface area, using approximately 75% less water than other regional mines, and ensuring no net loss of biodiversity.”

Additionally, Musslewhite emphasized the project’s wider ramifications for national interests, saying, “We encourage community residents to actively participate in the Forest Service’s public comment process.” Together, we hope to reduce America’s reliance on foreign mineral supplies, increase domestic availability of vital minerals for clean energy technology and national defense, and spark local economic growth.”

It was recently announced that the board of South32 approved a $2.16 billion investment to create the Hermosa project, which is the largest private investment in the history of Southern Arizona. The project’s potential economic impact and its role in influencing the local mining environment are highlighted by this financial commitment.

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