ASHLAND, Ore. -- It’s difficult to use water when there’s no water flowing. Or so discovered a UK-based mining company this week when Oregon regulators denied one of the many permits required before development of a nickel mine can get underway in Southern Oregon.
The Red Flat Nickel Corporation wants to use water from a creek in the Kalmiopsis Roadless Area in Southwest Oregon for exploratory drilling. It proposed to siphon off 10 gallons per minute from a small creek.
Raquel Rancier of the Oregon Water Resources Department said her agency's field staff was not familiar enough with this remote area to approve or deny the permit request without additional legwork.
"We determined it was important for us to go to the site to determine whether water was available,” she said.
Agency employees hiked in and found the unnamed creek. Its water flow was a mere trickle, flowing at less than one gallon per minute.
The proposed mining project has caused concern among a wide range of stakeholders, from environmental groups to the State of California. Three thousand public comments came in, according to Rancier.
“And that’s significantly more than we typically receive,” she said.
California officials voiced concern about maintaining water flows in the Smith River downstream for salmon habitat and human use – saying there was no water to spare.
Others, like Barbara Ullian with Friends of the Kalmiopsis, said a strip or pit mine doesn’t mesh with the untouched nature of the immediate vicinity of the proposed nickel mining project -
“This area is pristine. For instance the Baldface Creek watershed, the Forest Service has found it basically to be ... pretty much original condition,” she said.