Gold Mine Expansion OK Shows Broken Air Permit Process

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Thursday, April 13, 2023
Chandra Rosenthal (303) 898-0798


Gold Mine Expansion OK Shows Broken Air Permit Process

Colorado Refuses to Fix Major Underlying Flaws in Approving New Permit


Denver, CO — Colorado has improperly allowed the enlargement of one of the largest open pit gold mine on the planet by ignoring its impact on the state’s worsening air quality, according to comments filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead of addressing serious problems that whistleblowers represented by PEER identified in the original and successor operating permits, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environmental has confined its review only to the incremental impact of the expanded mine operations.

The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine, owned by multinational Newmont Corporation, is located near the town of Victor, Colorado, in Teller County. Under the latest permit amendment granted by DPHE on March 14, 2023, the material “throughput” for this section of the massive mine would roughly double from 90,000 tons per year to 175,000.

This expansion takes place against a deteriorating air pollution situation, with Colorado now in “severe nonattainment” with National Ambient Air Quality Standards – the most serious category. According to DPHE employees represented by PEER, Colorado’s situation is the result of thousands of air pollution permits, such as the Cripple Creek & Victor (CC&V) mine permit, which one by one have pushed the state into deadly levels of air pollution.

“The ‘Rule of Holes’ says that when you are in one, stop digging. Unfortunately, Colorado officials do not recognize how deep a hole they have dug,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal. “If the original permit is rotten, building onto it is most unwise.”

In its comments arguing against the expanded permit, PEER points out that –

    • The CC&V permit contributes to ongoing violations because the mine operators did not want to reduce production or increase control measures to lower air quality impacts;
    • A former attorney for CC&V, now a top DPHE official, pushed through prior permits over staff objections and ordered reliance upon highly questionable data; and
    • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that “the permit record did not demonstrate that the proposed project and the allowable emission increases from the proposed source would not cause or contribute to violations for all the ambient air quality standards. While we offered the opportunity for CDPHE to provide additional information… no additional information was provided to address our concerns.”

EPA also raised concerns about the CC&V project being split into multiple smaller projects and indicated that by doing so, it masked the overall air quality impacts of the entire operation.

“Colorado‘s air quality is already suffering death by a thousand cuts from swarms of permits, such as CC&V,” added Rosenthal, pointing out that the area affected is a poor community already suffering from levels of disproportionate pollution. “If the Legislature wants to know why the state’s air pollution program is so ineffective, it should start here.”


Read the PEER comments

Compare the CDPHE rejection of those comments

See U.S. EPA letter

Examine whistleblower critique of permit

View environmental justice score for Victor, CO

See the gold mine’s most recent permit

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