CEO Blog - June 5, 2012
Wednesday, June 06 2012 00:10
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Question: I noticed a new approval from NDEP on the results from the Lucerne Mine. What does this mean?

Answer: Thank you for the question.  We did get good news on Friday, June 1st, when Comstock Mining received written confirmation that the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Corrective Actions (NDEP-BCA) had approved the Environmental Findings Report for the Lucerne Mine Area. With the approval of this report, all currently planned mining activities can proceed without the need to mitigate for any contaminants.

The report presents and summarizes the data from 246 soil samples taken in the Lucerne Area. Since January 2012, McGinley & Associates, Inc., a Nevada based Environmental Sciences firm, and a Certified Environmental Manager approved by the State of Nevada, has been completing the required fieldwork using the protocols of the Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP). The SAP is used to identify and quantify concentrations of mercury, lead and arsenic in areas that could potentially reside in NDEP-BCA designated risk areas of the Carson River Mercury Superfund (CRMS). The SAP was approved and is overseen by the NDEP-BCA. NDEP-BCA was granted oversight of the superfund by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The very good news is that no actionable levels of mercury or lead were identified in the Lucerne Mine Area. Arsenic was identified above threshold concentrations in one location, but it is located at depth under a haul road that will not be mined, so no mitigation is required at this time.

This is the first report to be approved by NDEP-BCA. Not only does the result provide a positive outcome for Comstock Mining, it highlights the excellent working relationship we have with NDEP-BCA and the EPA. Recent newspaper articles have erroneously stated otherwise, and I hope this approval demonstrates the real nature of our relationship with both agencies: cooperative, collaboratively working together for public safety and health, and focused on providing fact-based information to the public.

The news articles I am referring to reported that the EPA was “taking legal action” against Comstock Mining. The EPA HAS NOT taken any legal action against Comstock Mining. Rather, some time ago, the EPA sent Comstock an information request letter under procedures established by a provision in the law referred to as 104(e).  The 104(e) letter was a standard request for information regarding ownership status, current and predecessor operations, etc., within a superfund area. Comstock had voluntarily provided much of the requested information to EPA prior to our receipt of the 104(e) letter.  We provided the remainder of the requested information in February of this year, though we are required to update the EPA with any pertinent new information on an on-going basis.

More importantly, we have been one of the most substantive proponents of the Comstock territory and environment.  We have invested unprecedented time and money, restoring historic mills, stabilizing and expanding the Gold Hill Hotel operations and, most profoundly, sampling the soils and ensuring clean, safe operations.  For over a year now we have been working closely with the NDEP-BCA and the EPA regarding those aspects of our operations near historic mills or tailings areas in the CRMS. This collaborative effort has resulted in one of the most comprehensive and robust SAPs ever developed for the CRMS site – and this approval of the Environmental Findings Report for the Lucerne Pit Area is a major validation of this effort.

Under the SAP, both EPA and NDEP-BCA receive advance notice of our sampling so that they can observe or take their own samples.  Comstock has taken nearly 2,000 samples.  Neither agency has participated by taking additional sampling with Comstock to-date. To-date we have spent over $1,250,000, sampling areas on our property. We are testing to the highest environmental standards with the goal of not just operating safely but ultimately, to remove the superfund designation from our community.

Through Comstock’s sampling effort under the SAP, we have documented that our processing area does not contain elevated mercury levels.  Our sampling program included sampling outside of areas believed by NDEP-BCA to present potential mercury exposure risks.  Those sampling data also show that land outside of the NDEP-BCA designated risk areas is generally unaffected by historic mill operations or tailings and has very low levels of mercury.

Documentation relating to our environmental permits, including the letter approving the Environmental Findings Report for Lucerne Pit Area and the report itself, may be accessed by interested parties via the NDEP website: http://ndep.nv.gov/comstock/index.htm

We have a plan that visibly protects, preserves, restores, enhances and celebrates the value of the historical Comstock landscape and this is a critical step forward in implementing that plan.

Kindest Regards,

Corrado De Gasperis
President and CEO