SEC Appeal — Closure of the Big Springs Mine

Update — Big Springs Appeal Hearing — The Big Springs Appeal hearing was held on Thursday, March 29, 2006, at the Office of the Attorney General, 100 North Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada 89701-4717. The State Environmental Commission - SEC Appeal Panel heard arguments from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (State), Great Basin Mine Watch-GBMW (the Appellant), and AngloGold Ashanti, a Nevada Corporation (the Intervenor).

Arguments were confined to a notice issued by the State on March 22, 2006 titled "NDEP's Intent To Challenge Great Basin Mine Watch's Standing Pursuant To NRS 233B.127(4). After hearing opening arguments and rebuttals by all parties, the Commission voted to stay the hearing for 90 days (July 6 tentative) and to request a formal Attorney General's Opinion on the applicability of NRS 233B.127(4). Press accounts of the hearing and public comments submitted for the record are listed below.

On July 6, 2006 the SEC Appeals Panel re-convened and subsequently dismissed the appeal by Great Basin Mine Watch regarding renewal of a water pollution control permit issued by the Nevada Division of Environmental. The SEC Appeal Panel took this action based on the acceptance of the below referenced Attorney Generals Opinion (AGO). Of note, the AGO was prepared in response to arguments presented by the State regarding Great Basin Mine Watch's “standing” in light of a legislative change to NRS 233B (i.e., Nevada’s Administrative Procedures Act - APA). The recent change to the APA now requires that a party in a contested case must show a direct financial interest in the case to bring an appeal to the SEC, i.e., a party must be granted “standing.”

Regarding the above referenced decision, the SEC’s Attorney has prepared a written "Order of the Commission" which is posted below on this website.

On July 25, 2006 and in accordance with the SEC's Rules of Practice (NAC 445B.899) and Nevada's Administrative Procedures Act (NRS 233B.130), the appellant Great Basin Mine Watch filled a Petition for Reconsideration and Rehearing on the Big Springs Mine appeal. Information related to the appellants filing is posted below including formal responses by the State and the intervener.

The SEC Appeals panel subsequently held a reconsideration hearing on August 4th 2006. The notice for the August 4th hearing along with a summary of the hearing minutes are also posted below. After reviewing the filings by all parties the SEC panel moved to deny the Petition for Reconsideration. The motion to deny the petition is reflected in hearing minutes.

On September 5th, 2006, Great Basin Mine Watch filed a Petition For Judicial Review And Alternative Request For Extraordinary Writ Relief (as per NRS 233B.010). Subsequent to this filing, the Attorney Generals Office respond on September 13th with a Motion to Dismiss. Both filings are posted below.

Appeal Documents as of 04/11/06

  • April 07, 2006 — SEC Transcript of Proceedings, Appeal Hearing 03/29/06 Note: This is a password protected file. The password is ndep. Because of state contractual obligations with the court reporting service, this file has been wright protected for "screen read use only" -- sorry!
  • June 19, 2006 — Attorney General Opinion — (AG) OPINION NO. 2006-03) ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION; ADMINISTRATIVE LAW; BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS: Pursuant to NRS 233B.127(4) a public interest group must demonstrate a financial interest as a direct result of a grant or renewal of a license in order to appeal that grant or renewal to the State Environmental Commission.
  • End of SEC Administrative Record

  • Beginning of Record for Judicial Review

Press Coverage & Public Comments

Additional Background

The above referenced appeal by Great Basin Mine Watch (GBMW) challenges the renewal of a Water Pollution Control Permit (NEV0087001) issued by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) on July 26, 2005, to become effective on August 15, 2005. The permit authorized the permanent closure of the Big Springs Mine located in Elko County, Nevada. The Big Springs Mine is owned and operated by AngloGold Ashanti, a Nevada Corporation.

The appeal by GBWM alleges that NDEP's permit improperly permitted discharges into the North Fork of the Humboldt River (NFHR) and its tributaries. According to appeal, NDEP has failed to properly regulate all discharges at the site and has not issued a proper discharge permit for the mine and/or related point sources, as required by the federal Clean Water Act and Nevada's Water Pollution Control Law.

GBWM further alleges that NDEP has failed to comply with state water quality standards and prescribed beneficial uses and alleges that discharges are causing elevated levels of various constituents in the NFHR and its tributaries (e.g. selenium, manganese), and that these discharges are harming Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, a listed threatened species. According to the appeal, these discharges are stated to be in violation of the federal Clean Water Act and the Nevada Water Pollution Control Laws NRS 445A.300 et seq.

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