Posts Tagged ‘Bob Abbey’

BLM Rejects Sandoval Proposal To Speed Up Mining Permit Process, But State Says Progress Being Made

By Sean Whaley | 5:15 pm November 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has rejected a proposal from Gov. Brian Sandoval to speed up the notice requirements needed for the approval of new and expanded mining operations, but the agency said in a letter that progress has been made in expediting the process.

Sandoval in September sent a letter to President Obama asking that the Washington, DC-level review of Federal Register notices for mining projects be bypassed. Allowing state offices to send the notices directly would save time and help create jobs in Nevada, he said.

Courtesy of the Newmont Mining Corp.

BLM Director Bob Abbey, in a letter to Sandoval received Nov. 18, rejected the proposal, but said the agency is working to improve the process.

“Early this year, I committed to representatives of Nevada’s mining industry to speed up the process with Notices of Intent and Notices of Availability,” he said. “I am happy to report to you that since our meeting this summer, the efficiency of recent notice reviews by the BLM Washington Office has exceeded expectations.”

Abbey cited a notice that arrived in the BLM Washington Office on Sept. 15 that was cleared for publication on Sept. 26.

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, said today that despite the rejection of Sandoval’s proposal, there is evidence the permitting process has been improving.

“The letter makes it pretty clear that the administration in Washington won’t be changing their procedures from a regulatory standpoint,” he said. “The good news is we have though seen a significant change in how the regulations are applied in terms of process. We’ve had a number of reports to the office lately that the permitting process has speeded up and they are moving much more quickly.”

Erquiaga cited a Newmont Mining Corp. project that recently benefited from the expedited process.

“They may not be changing their written procedures, but they are actually changing the process and we appreciate that very much,” he said. “This is not an issue to split hairs over the legality of federal rules. The goal is to get these permits through the process so that we can get Nevadans working and we’re seeing some great results with that. The end result is what matters.”

Erquiaga said the governor’s staff has been meeting regularly with state BLM officials, meetings that have produced positive results.

Mary Korpi, director of external relations for Newmont’s North American region, said the project benefiting from the speedy Federal Register noticing requirement is the Phoenix Copper Leach expansion south of Battle Mountain.

That process has in the past taken up to a year, but took only 42 days in this instance, she said. Ultimately 50 new long-term jobs are expected from the expansion.

“It was a significant improvement in the time factor,” Korpi said. “It is now published and out for comment. We are very, very pleased.”

Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said he believes Sandoval’s letter has had an effect on speeding up the permitting process, and noted that Abbey also appreciates the need to move as quickly as possible.

“The mining industry does have a lot of new projects on line and ready to go,” he said. “Where possible, without compromising the environmental integrity of the permitting process, we ought to be working as quickly as possible to get these projects going and get people working. And so yes, I do think his letter has had a great impact.”

There are pieces of the regulatory process that do not add value, Crowley said.

Sandoval noted in his Sept. 16 letter that mine permitting is presently a multi-layer process that requires sequential approval by many different offices before a notice can be sent, which he said lengthens the timeline by many months and in some cases years. Prior to 2001, BLM state offices had the authority to send notices directly to the Federal Register without prior review by Washington, DC, he said.

“This is my first request of President Obama since becoming governor,” Sandoval said in a press release. “I need his help to get Nevadans working again, and we have identified a very specific step he can take to spur job creation in our mining industry.”

In his letter, Abbey rejected Sandoval’s proposal.

BLM Director Bob Abbey.

“We have learned from experience that departmental policy review is very important,” he said. “The BLM Regulatory Affairs Division ensures the delivery of notices to the Federal Register in a manner that meets strict style, formatting and legal requirements.”

Abbey also noted that the timely processing of Federal Register notices, “is central to the BLM’s ability to carry out its mission,” and that the agency issues a directive in December 2009 for consistent handling of notices that had historically experienced delays to improve the processing time required for publication.

He also noted that the agency recently instituted comprehensive training for those involved in developing Federal Register notices to ensure they are standardized and of high quality to expedite the process.

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Audio clips:

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, said today that despite the rejection of Sandoval’s proposal, there is evidence the permitting process has been improving:

112811Erquiaga1 :26 much more quickly.”

Erquiaga says the goal is to get Nevadans working:

112811Erquiaga2 :12 results with that.”

Nevada Mining Association President Tim Crowley says he believes Sandoval’s letter has helped:

112811Crowley :23 a great impact.”