Summit County moving to step up regulation of cyanide heap-leaching

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Last year the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the industry challenge to Summit County’s ban on the use of cyanide heap-leaching. The Summit County Commissioners are now looking to tighten regulation of the process while removing the ban from the books. Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

As argued before the Colorado Supreme Court, the case centered on the limits of local authority over mining. Summit County claimed local governments have the right to block activities that could potentially threaten local water quality and fisheries. The Colorado Mining Association argued that state laws adequately address environmental concerns. Allowing counties establish local bans on certain types of mining would result in patchwork of regulation that could hamper the economically significant activity in the state.

Now, the county will strike the ban from its regulations, per the court ruling, but will look at other ways to maintain local control. “The commissioners asked us to look at this and make some changes to our codes,” said county planning director Jim Curnutte.

One area planners will explore are stricter performance standards for mining. Such standards would require mining companies to beef up the plans for emergency operations, including the clean-up of any potential spill, Curnutte explained. The changes would make it easier for local planning boards to review proposed projects and to issue stringent conditional use permits…

Curnutte said the county would also look at applying its so-called 1041 powers to review and regulate mining operations. Local 1041 powers stem from a 1974 state law enabling local governments to “designate certain geographic areas and specified activities as matters of state interest.” Those powers have sometimes been used to exert authority over projects like pipelines. According to Curnutte, Summit County may look at designating specific mining or mineral zones that would subsequently be subject to local 1041 permitting authority.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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