Comment period extended for PCS mine alternatives

Published 6:40 pm Thursday, December 20, 2007

By Staff
Environmental groups sound off against two options
Staff Writer
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has extended the comment period on two mine-continuation alternatives at PCS Phosphate’s Aurora mine.
Scheduled to end Friday, Tom Walker, the corps’ project manager, said Tuesday the comment public period would be extended 10 days to honor a request from one of the corps comment reviewers.
The Army Corps of engineers released a supplemental environmental impact statement on two new mine-continuation alternatives Nov. 6. Comments on that study will now be received by the corps until Dec. 31.
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 record of decision on whether a permit will be issued PCS is expected by March.
Both new alternatives represent possible mine footprints within the area outlined in the original environmental study released in October 2006, which 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.”
The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation and the Southern Environmental Law Center together released a statement to the contrary on Dec. 12.
Alternative “L” follows a boundary on the NCPC tract and a new boundary on the Bonnerton and S33 Tracts that would result in fewer impacts than the applicant-preferred boundary, according to the corps study. Alternative “M” consists of a more expansive boundary that is smaller than the applicant-preferred on each of the three tracts, the study reads.
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.
According to both Ross Smith, manager of environmental affairs for PCS. and the corps’ latest study, neither of the new alternatives will impact land protected under the Coastal Area Management Act. PTRF disagreed in its statement released last week, saying mining either alternative would violate the Clean Water Act.
Comments can be submitted to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District, Regulatory Division. ATTN: File Number 2001- 10096, Post Office Box 1890, Wilmington, NC 28402-1890.
Questions about the proposed action and SDEIS can be directed to Walker at (828) 271-7980 ext. 222.