Responsible Mining Isn’t Just a Slogan in New Mexico

Special Focus: New Mexico

By Jane Tabor, New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division

The New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division (MMD) seeks to promote the public trust by ensuring the responsible utilization, conservation, reclamation and safeguarding of land and resources affected by mining. MMD strives to make New Mexico a leader in responsible mine operation and reclamation.

“New Mexico’s economy recently benefitted from record-breaking mineral extraction production values, employee payrolls and capital improvement expenditures,” said MMD Director Fernando Martinez.

In 2012 (latest vetted statistics available), the 237 registered mining operations reported more than $2.8 billion in minerals extracted from New Mexico mines – the highest minerals production value ever reported for the state, exceeding the previous 2008 high by nearly 19 percent. While coal production was flat, reported potash production nearly doubled in 2012 offsetting the lower price per pound, and copper production and value were up 56 percent and 41 percent, respectively. These factors, in conjunction with other considerably increased commodity production, account for the majority of the increase.

New Mexico remains a leading United States mineral producer with 2012 rankings of first in potash, perlite and zeolite; third in copper (U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)); and twelfth in coal (U.S. Energy Information Administration). According to USGS, for 2012, New Mexico ranked fourteenth when ranking states by the production value of non-energy minerals.

Potash claimed the highest production value, and coal had the largest payroll and generated the greatest revenue in 2012. Total state and federal revenues from mineral production increased to $62.4 million. Industry payroll reached an all-time high of $372 million (excluding benefits), more than 10 percent higher than the previous high in 2008. Coal was the largest employer, followed by copper and potash. Capital improvement expenditures also hit an all-time high as mining companies invested over $390 million in capital improvements and equipment.

Industry interest and funding of new mining and exploration projects focus on copper and precious metals. MMD staff is reviewing large scale permit applications for three uranium mines, one copper mine, and one gold mine. The most active uranium projects are a revision application to move the Mount Taylor uranium mine from standby to active status, and a company seeking to work with Acoma Pueblo to put mine discharge water to beneficial use. Although no MMD permit applications have been received yet, proposed large potash mine and garnet mine operations in the southern part of the state both hope to break ground in 2015.

In addition to its active mining programs, MMD’s national award-winning abandoned mine land program works to identify dangerous abandoned mine areas and abate their hazards to protect public health, public safety, and property from the adverse effects of historic mining practices and to restore degraded land, water resources and the environment. An estimated 10,000+ hazardous mine openings remain un-reclaimed throughout New Mexico. MMD implements a federally funded program to reclaim and safeguard its high priority inventory using geomorphic reclamation techniques, structural closures (most are bat compatible), and, at times, emergency mine waste pile flood washout remediation.

“Although the global economy and lower commodity prices forced the closure of one of the state’s molybdenum mines and the reduction in workforce and production at a potash facility this year, the overall outlook for New Mexico’s mining industry suggests continued growth and opportunities for investors,” concludes Director Martinez.



Resources Quarterly - Fall 2014

This article originally appears in the Fall 2014 edition of Resources Quarterly.

Click here or on the cover to view the entire issue.