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    Mine ordered to mitigate environmental harm; reclamation contractor is working without pay

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    Scores of employees lost their jobs March 18 as officials closed the Lisbon Valley Mine in San Juan County, pictured here. Photo courtesy of Lisbon Valley Mining Company

    In response to the abrupt closing of the Lisbon Valley Copper Mine, Director John Baza of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining has signed an emergency order, according to a statement from the division.

    The order requires that the operator contains and/or reclaims any and all facilities at the mine to the extent necessary to immediately prevent any imminent threat of environmental harm. If the operator fails to take immediate action to ensure the environmental harms are mitigated, the division will undertake emergency actions to forfeit the full amount of the surety bond.

    A surety bond ensures monies are available to the division for reclamation in the event the company defaults on its permit. The emergency order will apply until the next Board of Oil, Gas and Mining Board Hearing scheduled for April 22.

    An inspector from the Bureau of Land Management inspected the site early Friday. A division inspector is now onsite.

    “Our main objective is to ensure the facility poses no threat to the surrounding environment and that there are no risks to public safety,” said a statement from the division.

    According to the operator’s annual report, the mine is 984 acres in size and includes four pits, one leach pad, approximately four water process ponds, and several buildings.

    On Monday, March 23, inspectors from the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining confirmed for the operator steps that will need to be taken to avoid potential off-site impacts.

    Any work that’s done can only be shutdown or reclamation related; no production work can occur.

    The surety that holds the bond for Lisbon Valley Mining Company has been contacted while a contractor develops a shutdown plan for the mine. The surety bond ensures money if available for reclamation work in the event a company defaults on its payment, according to the Division.

    The contractor, like the furloughed employees, is not being paid and has warned state officials “it will be hard to keep up their environmental protection measures if they can’t pay for supplies, fuel and wages,” but they will continue to work. The Division said it could fund the contractor as a stopgap measure and seek reimbursement later.

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