If plans go ahead, a company called Cougar Gold would set up a full-scale mining project in the Bodie Wilderness Study Area of BLM, with the prospect of employment of 300 people over 15 years.
At the last Board meeting, representatives from Cougar Gold, LLC ,made a presentation to the Mono Board of Supervisors regarding their plans for the Paramount Mine near Bridgeport, and announced that the company had just submitted their much anticipated Plan of Operation to the BLM.
Marcel DeGuire, CEO of Electrum USA (Cougar’s parent company) explained their plan to conduct an exploratory drilling operation at the Paramount site, which is located on BLM land off Aurora Canyon Road in the Bodie Wilderness Study Area. The site is 10 miles east of Bridgeport and 10 miles north of Bodie State Park.
DeGuire offered a brief history of the BLM’s Wilderness Study Area designation, and explained the company’s grandfathered rights allow them to conduct a drilling operation at the Paramount site. Should they find suitable prospects and wish to expand to a full scale mining operation, DeGuire said the Bodie Wilderness Study Area would have to be released through an act of congress before they could proceed.
Such an exploratory operation would employ 34 people for 3 months, according to DeGuire. Should a full scale operation follow, it would employ over 300 people and last for at least fifteen years.
For the exploratory drilling operation, Cougar wants to utilize a helicopter to deliver the drilling rigs to their respective pads. This will reduce site disturbance, as Cougar will not have to cut any new roads. The reduced site disturbance should keep the project below thresholds that would trigger additional environmental regulation. The plan calls for 31 holes anywhere from 500 to 1600 feet deep, with each hole about 10 inches in diameter.
The Board Chambers was filled with citizens from the north part of the county, many of whom offered a patriotic support for mineral extraction in Mono County. Nobody spoke in staunch opposition to the project, although some questions drew attention to the potential impacts of a full scale mining operation at the site.
With Cougar’s Plan of Operations in hand, the BLM will now conduct the requisite environmental work for the project, which DeGuire said he hopes to begin in July 2009.