Corps publishes final PCS impact statement

Published 12:46 am Saturday, May 24, 2008

By Staff
Company calls for mining permit to be issued soon
Staff Writer
The Army Corps of Engineers issued Friday morning its final environmental impact statement on a proposed continuation at PCS Phosphate’s mine in Aurora.
The proposed expansion would occur over a 37-year period and would impact approximately 4,135 acres of public-trust waters including wetlands adjacent to The Pamlico River, South Creek and Durham Creek. In the document, the corps identifies a mine-continuation plan called “alternate L” as having the least impacts to wetlands while allowing PCS Phosphate to mine profitably.
PCS Phosphate officials have said that any delays in the permitting process at this point could necessitate a phased shutdown of the mining operation, which employs more than 1,000 people — most of whom are residents of eastern North Carolina. In a response to the corps’ decision, Ross Smith, director of environmental affairs for PCS Phosphate, called for the corps to issue permits for the company to mine alternate L as soon a possible.
PCS Phosphate applied for permits to mine areas surrounding its existing mine in 2000. The project area in which the company applied for permits to mine consists of three separate tracts on the
The project area is approximately 15,100 acres and consists of three basic tracts: A 3,608-acre area east of the current operation and adjacent South Creek identified as the NCPC tract, a 8,686-acre area south of the current operation and south of N.C. Highway 33 identified as the S33 tract and a 2,806-acre area west of the current operation and adjacent Durham Creek identified as the Bonnerton tract.
The corps describes alternate L as a “holistic” mining plan that includes mining in all three tracts adjacent to the existing mine. Alternative L would provide about 37 years of mining at approximately 5 million tons of phosphate ore extraction per year, according to the FEIS. It would impact roughly 4,135 acres of public waters, including 29,288 linear-feet of stream, according to the document.
Public comment on the FEIS is being accepted by the corps for a period of 45 days. Following the comment period, the Corps will consider all comments and issue a record of decision on whether a permit will be issued to PCS Phosphate and for which mining alternative. The document can be viewed by visiting Copies of the FEIS are available also at BHM Regional library in Washington, Hazel Guilford Memorial Library in Aurora, Pamlico County Library in Bayboro and the New Bern-Craven County Library.
Having been at the table throughout the application process, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation is already weighing in on the corps’ findings. The group is labeling the corps sanction of the mine expansion as the “largest wetland destruction in N.C. history.”
PTRF has partnered with The Southern Environmental Law Center to oppose PCS Phosphate’s plan to disturb wetlands along South Creek.
Geoff Gisler, an attorney with SELC said Friday the FEIS “foreshadows a dark future for the Pamlico River.”
“We remain hopeful that the Corps will follow the advice of state and federal resource agencies by denying the company’s request to permit the largest destruction of wetlands in the state’s history,” he said.
The corps is soliciting comments on the proposed activity, the alternatives and the FEIS. Written comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. July 7. Comments should 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 FEIS can be directed to Mr. Tom Walker, Project Manager, Regulatory Division, telephone: (828) 271-7980 extension 222.