With the high price of gold, a large open pit mine in Southern Inyo County is scheduled to re-open. Contractors are currently working on a new leach field at the Briggs Mine in the Panamint Valley.
The Briggs Mine is a large open pit mine at the southern end of the Panamint Valley, between Lone Pine and Death Valley. With the price of gold recently up over $900 an ounce, the previously dormant mine is now slated to re-start operations.
While there was some opposition to the mine when it first opened, there is little public process this time around. The plan is to re-open using the existing environmental impact documents. Briggs General Manager Ken Mann, reports that the mine which first opened major operations in 1996, was never built to the fullest extant allowed under the original permit.
The Briggs mine uses a cyanide solution to leach the gold out of the ore. Mann explained that the ore is crushed to about a quarter inch in size and placed on a plastic lined clay bed. Delivered by a system similar to drip irrigation, the cyanide leaches through the crushed rock and is collected at the bottom end. The cyanide solution is then processed on site to remove the gold. Mann says that there has never been a leak in the clay and plastic lined leach field.
Over the years there is always talk of re-opening closed mines in the Eastern Sierra. This time around, Mann reports that the company is currently hiring employees. He expects the Briggs will hire up to 80 people for the next six years or more. Most of the employees are expected to be hired out of Ridgecrest or Trona, but anyone interested should call the company office in Ridgecrest.