CHESAW A subsidiary of Kinross recently announced plans to modify its existing water right agreement to support exploratory activity in the Okanogan Highlands.
The announcement came Tuesday evening, following a recent application through the Okanogan County Water Conservancy Board and state Department of Ecology to change an existing water agreement with Crown Resources, a subsidiary of Kinross.
In a press release, Crown said it has applied for a “modification of an existing water right to support its exploration activities in the vicinity of the Buckhorn Mine.
“Crown has requested to modify the purpose and extent of water use for this particular water right, clearly stating that this change will not increase the volume of water use nor will it impact existing instream flow mitigation requirements.”
“This water right change application, if approved, will allow for Crown to continue to use this water right for its existing uses of dust control, instream flow, and irrigation but would also allow for mining, industrial use and drilling should those needs be identified at some point during current operation or for future activities,” said Kinross spokeswoman Deana Zakar.
While Kinross says it’s not a drilling proposal, locals believe the company is trying to locate gold veins that may be worth mining.
“They’re trying to establish once and for all if there is any ore they can establish underground,” said David Kliegman, executive director of the Okanogan Highlands Alliance. “The problem I have is, it was hidden in public a notice, instead of coming right out.”
According to Kinross officials, the water right modification is being conducted properly and with legal, transparent accordance.
“Changes to water rights are common, and utilize a thorough public process that allows the community an opportunity to comment on proposed changes,” the statement said.
“Kinross should control the pollution emanating from the Buckhorn Mine before it proposes to expand its operations,” Kliegman said. “It is essential that the agencies take a careful, ‘look before you leap’ approach to protect the land, water and wildlife.”
“The application for change of water rights is available to the public for review and is currently open for public comment through July 4, 2014,” the statement said.
The proposed water-right change was published in the May 28 issue of The Chronicle as a legal notice, the same day officials from Echo Bay Exploration announced they would withdraw their combined plan of operations.
Echo Bay Exploration planned to drill up to 965 holes at 675 sites. Kinross currently employs 230 people and contracts about 130 more.