US Forest Service kicks off federal permitting process for South32’s Hermosa project

South32’s Hermosa project area. (Image by South32).

The US Forest Service (USFS) has started the federal permitting process for South32’s (ASX, LON: S32) Hermosa project by kicking off the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act. 

Called the “scoping process,” the federal government published a notice of intent to share South32’s project plans and allow community members, through June 10, 2024, to provide input and publicly comment on the scope of analysis and issues the USFS should consider as a part of Hermosa’s Environmental Impact Statement. 

While all of Hermosa’s mining will be done from private lands and require several state permits to begin initial development, a federal permit is required to develop the project. 

Located in the Patagonia Mountains, about 80 kilometres southeast of Tucson, Arizona, Hermosa comprises the zinc-lead-silver Taylor sulphide deposit and the zinc-manganese-silver Clark oxide deposit. In addition to these deposits, Hermosa has a highly prospective broader land package that includes the copper-lead-zinc-silver Peake exploration target and the Flux prospect.

Hermosa is the only advanced US mining project capable of producing two federally designated critical minerals, zinc and manganese. Last year, it became the first project to be added to the United States’ FAST-41 permitting process.

The scoping procedure that just started is specifically focused on the scope of the environmental analysis, alternatives that meet the purpose and need of the project, and receiving information that will help the USFS understand the environmental impacts of the project’s proposed expansion of ancillary infrastructure onto Forest Service lands. 

Overall, federal authorization is expected to take two more years and include multiple rounds of public feedback and discussion. 

“South32’s Hermosa project aims to set a new standard for sustainable mining, with advanced technology. Because we are building it from the ground up, it is being designed to minimize environmental impact, including operating on a limited surface footprint, using approximately 75% less water than other mines in the region and achieving the goal of no net loss for biodiversity,” Brent Musslewhite, Hermosa’s director of permitting and approvals, said in a media statement. “We encourage community members to participate in the Forest Service’s public comment process. Working together, we can strengthen the domestic supply of critical minerals needed for clean energy technologies and national defence, reduce America’s reliance on foreign countries and transform the local economy.”

After a recent board approval of $2.16 billion in funding to develop the zinc-lead-silver deposit, Hermosa has become the largest private investment in Southern Arizona’s history.

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