Processing facility could expand mining along coast
A mining company wants to open up an ore-to-gold processing facility on the Samoa Peninsula and representatives of the corporation plan to present their interest in leasing a section of the pulp mill site during a Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District meeting on Thursday.
The Yuba City-based mining company, US Mine Corp., will be offering $5,000 to secure a sixmonth period in which it is the only company that can make offers to the harbor district for Redwood Terminal 2, harbor district Executive Director Jack Crider said.
The company has identified the shop building and the machine building as the two structures it would intend to lease for a mill site to extract gold from ore, Crider said.
The Samoa Peninsula’s central location along the West Coast, the deep port and the facilities already present are what drew the corporation to the site after looking at potential locations from Southern California to Washington, US Mine Corp. General Manager Guy Reed said.
The company seeks to create a processing facility that is accessible for mines from Alaska to South America, Reed said.
There is not currently a facility along the coast where ore can be processed, and shipping ore by truck is not cost effective for isolated mines along the coast, he said.
The Samoa site would not only serve as a place for US Mine Corp. to process ore from its own mine sites but would also provide milling services for other mining operations, Reed said.
“We don’t know of another custom mill like that on the West Coast, so it would be very unique,” Reed said. “That is one of the reasons we are interested in doing it. There are various ore types from mine sites up and down the West Coast that are lacking processing facilities.”
Because mines and potential mine sites are often in remote areas, it is not feasible to process the ore at or near the locations, leaving some sites unused or not mined as extensively as possible, he said.
“There is a lot of untapped potential,” Reed said. “That’s where we come in.”
Reed said the goal would be to bring a couple hundred thousand pounds of ore to the Eureka port annually.
The ore would then be ground up into tiny particles and processed to extract gold and other precious medals, he said.
Once the gold is extracted, the plan is to turn the ground ore — mixed with aggregate and other products — into a precast concrete product, Reed said.
The product would then be exported via ship to other locations along the coast, he said.
Crider said entering into an exclusive right to negotiate stage would be the first step in a long process of discussions and proposals, and part of this will be an assessment of the process and an environmental review.
Because the process will include grinding up the ore and using a variety of different chemicals to extract the gold, there are some concerns, he said.
“One of the ones that is typical in that industry is cyanide,” he said. “We just spent a whole bunch of money to get rid of the chemicals on the site ... there will be a lot of questions.”
After purchasing the site, the harbor district removed toxic chemicals, including cyanide, that had been used in the pulp mill’s processing and sat in deteriorating tanks beside the bay.
Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt is among those with questions about the mining company’s proposal.
“I am highly skeptical that there is going to be anything that would convince people that putting a bunch of cyanide in a tsunami zone is a good idea,” Kalt said. “Not to mention the earthquake potential ... that could result in a leak or some sort of spill.”
Kalt said she was relieved by the actions the harbor district took to remove the risk posed by the chemicals left by the last private corporation to occupy the space.
“The harbor district has stated that they want to move forward with projects that protect Humboldt Bay and I don’t see (the mill) as being in that category,” Kalt said.
Humboldt Baykeeper, a branch of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, is not just concerned about what bringing toxic chemicals to the site could mean for Humboldt Bay, Kalt said.
“I think it is important to look at the whole picture,” she said. “I would like to know what rivers will be impacted by the mining, where the waste products will wind up. It is one world, it is not just what happens here that will affect us.”
Others, such as a cannabis industry leader and a pellet mill company have been interested in the site as well, but Crider said that there would be room for all of the tenants that have showed interest so far.
“We haven’t had a lot of interest in the machine building and the shop building,” he said. “We could enter into an agreement with the (mining corporation) because it doesn’t conflict with any of the other areas.”
“This is a long, long process, especially with a fullblown environmental review,” Crider said. “We would be looking at a couple years.”
The first step is for the US Mine Corp. to put money down to show its commitment to moving forward with negotiations, Crider said.
“We could get three months into it and all decide this is not going to work,” he said. “And on to the next tenant.”
Reed, however, said while they have scoped out many sites, this one fits their needs the best.
He also thinks the mill would be a good fit for the community by providing jobs spanning from unskilled trade workers to high-level engineers.
“Eureka was a perfect match,” he said. “We are pretty much settled on the idea that if this project is going to work it will be at that location.”