PTRF still concerned about PCS’ wetland impacts

Published 10:55 am Friday, November 9, 2007

By Staff
Two new mine-expansion alternatives on the table
Staff Writer
With two more mine-continuation options on the table, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation still has misgivings about the possible impacts those footprints may have on wetlands near Aurora.
The Army Corps of Engineers released a supplemental environmental impact statement on two new mine-continuation alternatives Tuesday. Comments on that study will be received by the corps until Dec. 21. PCS has been in the application process for a mine continuation permit since 2000. Once public comment on the new study has been weighed by the corps, a decision on whether a permit will be issued to PCS is expected by March.
Jacobs said the river guardian group is still concerned with the possible impacts of mining the North Carolina Phosphate Company tract just east of the present mine. PCS maintains that continuing its mining operation in that area is the most cost-effective option. But, PTRF and the corps have voiced concerns about disrupting the South Creek watershed, which the NCPC tract abuts. PCS’s preferred footprint in that area would impact 2,408 acres of wetlands, according to the EIS.
Both new alternatives represent possible mine footprints within the area outlined in the original environmental study released in October 2006. The study outlines possible impacts to three tracts where PCS wants to mine — the 3,412-acre NCPC tract, an area southwest of the present mine, called the Bonnerton tract, and an area south of N.C. Highway 33. PCS was asked by the corps to consider alternate “L” following a comment period on the DEIS. PCS volunteered alternate “M”, which company officials say “presents a reasonable alternative.”
Alternative “L” follows a boundary on the NCPC tract and a new boundary on the Bonnerton and S33 Tracts that would result in greater impacts than the SCR boundary but fewer impacts than the applicant-preferred boundary, according to the new study.
PCS has maintained that alternate “L” is not cost effective because of its restrictive boundaries that zig-zag around creeks and headwaters adjacent to South Creek.
Smith said the “jagged” boundary of alternate L make it difficult for PCS’s three 9-million pound draglines to mine phosphate ore as they progress south from the Pamlico River.
According to both Smith and the corps’ latest study, neither of the new alternatives will impact land protected under the Coastal Area Management Act.