Nevada Gold Mines has temporarily suspended plans to expand the Long Canyon Mine (link to letter from Nevada Gold Mines to BLM) in northeast Nevada and says it will conduct hydrologic studies to address concerns that the expansion would dry up nearby springs.  The company’s decision Thursday followed months of opposition from environmental, tribal and community groups. The expanded mine would be one of the largest gold mines in the world, with devastating impacts on the Johnson Springs wetlands and groundwater in the driest state in the country.

In April Great Basin Resource Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter, Wild Horse Education, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, and affected water rights holders filed administrative protests of Nevada Gold Mines’ new water-rights applications with the Nevada state engineer. The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation also filed in a parallel action. The groups said the company’s plan to excavate and dewater a massive open pit could prove catastrophic to wildlife, cultural resources and nearby springs, including the Johnson Springs in Goshute Valley and Ralph’s Warm Springs in Independence Valley

Long Canyon Mine was approved in 2015 and has been operational since 2016. Currently the gold mining is stripping away the hillside on the east side of the Pequop Mountains, above Johnson Springs.The expansion plan would excavate the existing open pit and proposed underground mine to well below the water table, which would require a massive amount of groundwater pumping to keep the mine workings dry.

Studies show this pumping would completely dry up Johnson Springs and could lower the water table, reducing spring flow at Ralph’s Warm Springs. Destroying these springs would likely violate state and federal laws. Nevada Gold Mines says it plans to conduct new studies and come up with a new mining plan to spare the springs.