Imperial County, California
Current Permitting Status
A decision on the Oro Cruz Project is now expected in Q1 2023.
Proposed Surface Exploration Work Pursuant to the BLM-Approved Plan of Operations:
- All proposed exploration activities are to be conducted to avoid unnecessary and undue degradation of public lands and resources.
- Establishment of 65 drill pads to support surface exploration in seven drill target areas.
- Reverse Circulation (RC) and/or core drilling of up to 65 drill holes.
- Construction of approximately 2.94 kilometres (km; 1.83 miles) of new, permanent access roads; approximately 9.98 km (6.2 miles) of temporary drill site access roads; and approximately 4.21 km (2.62 miles) of improvements to existing roads.
- Creation of a 1.05-hectare (2.6-acre) staging area at the Cross Mine underground portal for infrastructure related to future underground and surface exploration.
- Disturbance of up to only 3 hectares (20.5 acres) within an approximately 253-hectare (approximately 626 acres) portion of the Oro Cruz property located within the 184,500-acre Picacho Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
ORO CRUZ – PERMITTING PROCESS UPDATES
September 28, 2020 – Southern Empire Resources submitted to the United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) proposed Oro Cruz Project exploration Plan of Operations
November 16, 2021 – Oro Cruz Project exploration Plan of Operations was determined by the BLM to be administratively and technically complete and consistent with U.S. federal regulations. Since then, the Plan has been subject to significant and rigorous environmental and cultural reviews pursuant to the United States National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).
These extensive national and state reviews were respectively led by the BLM’s El Centro Field Office and the Imperial County Planning Department (“ICPD”).
These agencies are now in the process of preparing a joint, draft Environmental Assessment/Mitigated Negative Declaration (the “draft EA/MND”), which will provide a complete analysis of the effects on natural, environmental, cultural, and recreational resources that the agencies have determined to be present and potentially affected by the Southern Empire’s proposed Oro Cruz Project exploration activities.
Southern Empire anticipates the imminent publication by the BLM of its draft EA/MND, together with an unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”), which will be followed by an additional 30-day review period during which substantive comments regarding the Plan will be solicited from the public.
June 24, 2022 – 582-page Reclamation Plan for compliance with the State of California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (“SMARA”) was submitted on to the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Mine Reclamation (“DMR”) for their review.
October 28, 2022 – The Reclamation Plan is now considered to be complete subsequent to DMR’s review and comments received, and is available to read at: SMP – Oro Cruz Project, Imperial County, California – Reclamation Plan 20220928.
November 16, 2022 – BLM actions have initiated a 30-day public review/comment period (beginning on November 16th and closing on December 16th, 2022) during which substantive comments regarding the Plan and the draft EA/MND will be solicited from the public.
To review documentation concerning the Oro Cruz Project (including the Plan, the draft EA/MND, the unsigned FONSI, etc.) or to submit commentary electronically, please visit the BLM National NEPA Register at: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2017983/570. A virtual public information meeting will be held on November 30, 2022, from 4 to 5 p.m. PST and interested parties may register for this event at: https://stantec.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_oL7ApimWRSqNfm9yw8e-mQ.
Following the NEPA and CEQA public review periods, the BLM and Imperial County will coordinate with Southern Empire’s third-party NEPA and CEQA contractors to revise the draft EA/MND as deemed necessary and respond to any public comments received in order for the agencies to reach a decision on the Oro Cruz Project.
A decision on the Oro Cruz Project is now expected in Q1 2023.
Summary of the Oro Cruz Exploration Project Permitting Process, to date:
- The Plan was deemed complete by the BLM on September 28, 2020 for Southern Empire’s proposed surface exploration activities located within the Picacho ACEC.
- Environmental, biological, cultural, and hydrological baseline studies were completed in preparation for analysis in the permitting processes.
- The BLM published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register and distributed a related press release to initiate the NEPA-required public scoping process for the solicitation of public comments related to the preparation of the draft EA/MND. A 30-day public scoping period began on March 04, 2022 and 5 comments were received from the public.
- A Reclamation Plan for compliance with the State of California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) was prepared and submitted to the DMR on June 24, 2022 and is considered to be complete subsequent to DMR’s review and comments received on October 28, 2022.
- The NEPA and CEQA processes are concurrently engaged to allow for effective coordination and collaboration between Southern Empire, the BLM, and the ICPD.
- Imperial County Planning Department held an Environmental Evaluation Committee public hearing on November 17, 2022, for review of the adequacy of the CEQA analysis within the draft EA/MND.
- All permitting decisions are now anticipated to be in place by the end of Q1 2023.
Southern Empire’s environmental and permitting efforts are coordinated by Del Fortner Consulting of Tucson, Arizona. Our team includes:
- Stantec Consulting Services Inc., an international firm that liaises directly with both the BLM and the ICPD to prepare NEPA documentation for the BLM and coordinate the CEQA environmental review process with the ICPD.
- Sespe Consulting, Inc., specialists on SMARA and CEQA baseline environmental analysis, permitting and reclamation plan requirements, that assist in document preparation for the CEQA analysis.
- WestLand Resources, Inc., specialists in environmental engineering, permitting and planning, have completed the Oro Cruz Project baseline environmental and cultural studies and have provided documentation and services necessary to comply with both the NEPA and CEQA permitting requirements.