A potential bentonite mine in Diamond Basin was authorized Monday by the Bureau of Land Management.
The decision comes over the objection of many local residents, including members of the Diamond View Homeowners Association, who expressed concerns about health risks and road damage from the increase in truck traffic.
Warren Murphy, manager of the Diamond View Homeowner’s Association and a vocal critic of the proposal, said they’re still waiting on a decision from the state Department of Environmental Quality.
While he’s still holding out hope that DEQ comes out with a different assessment, he’s disappointed in the BLM’s decision.
“We’re hoping there will be a lot more to this,” he said. “There are a lot of concerns.”
He said the two main worries are the increase in traffic due to the trucks hauling out bentonite, and what the operation could do to air quality.
Wilson Brothers Construction, Inc., of Cowley, hopes to mine approximately 48 acres within a 55-acre permit area on BLM-managed federal land in the Diamond Basin area, seven miles southwest of Cody.
The decision is in line with the BLM’s commitment to supporting sustainable, working public lands for the American people, according to a release.
The BLM received initial comments on the original plan in 2014. Based on the input received, the company made several revisions to its plan, which the BLM analyzed in an environmental assessment. The environmental assessment was released for public review and comments on Jan. 18.
“Through evaluation of resource impacts and application of numerous mitigation measures that protect resource values,” the release states. “The BLM was able to reach a finding of no significant impact.”
The homeowners association disagreed with that assessment.
“In our opinion [the revisions do] not answer many of the questions raised in 2014 regarding health and safety issues that will affect not only residents of our subdivision but many other residents bordering Road 6UU [Diamond Basin Road],” Murphy wrote in part of a letter to the editor soon after the environmental assessment was released in January.
Bentonite is used in a variety of products and industries including for oil and gas development, bonding material and cat litter. The project is expected to provide an estimated 140,000 tons of bentonite from public lands over the 3-5-year life of the project, and would continue to support jobs and other services that benefit from an active mining operation, the BLM says.
The environmental assessment, BLM findings and decisions are available for review at go.usa.gov/xndTb.
The plan of operations submitted by Wilson Brothers is available for review at the BLM Cody Field Office, 1002 Blackburn Street.