Exploratory drilling for gold proposed in eastern Kern
❚ The project’s leader said all-electric equipment will be used to eliminate emissions and that the effort will avoid impacts to desert tortoises and other important resources in the area.
Reasonably high gold prices have attracted a new proposal for exploratory drilling on an environmentally sensitive portion of federally owned land in eastern Kern.
Bay Area-based Gold Discovery Group LLC has filed for a permit to drill 293 holes up to 24 feet deep and 8 inches in diameter off Highway 395 near Johannesburg. The project’s leader said all-electric equipment will be used to eliminate emissions and that the effort will avoid impacts to desert tortoises and other important resources in the area.
Before deciding whether to allow work that would start later this year, the federal Bureau of Land Management is gathering public comment on the plan’s environmental assessment, which lays out the group’s plan to cushion the impact of its work through the use of fencing to keep out tortoises.
The group’s manager and founder, former professional cyclist Sean Tucker, said Monday that if the plan wins approval, the operation would use only imported water and gravity — either a sluice wash or a separator using centrifugal force.
Tucker’s hopeful the project will pan out because of results from recent drilling at a site deemed not to be environmentally sensitive in the nearby area of Atolia. He’s also optimistic because of promising statements in documents from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, he said.
“We’ve actually found quite a bit of gold,” he said, noting the group consists of his wife, a couple of close friends and him. In all, they have staked mining claims across 2,470 acres. The immediate project measures 12 acres.
The price of gold has hovered around $1,800 per ounce lately — less than January’s peak of about $1,953 per ounce but solidly above November’s trough of $1,629.
Anything greater than $1,200 per ounce is usually enough to spur mining activity, Tucker said, adding, “If you process enough cubic yards, you could make some real money.”
Gold, silver, tungsten and other minerals were mined intensively between the two world wars, a BLM spokesman noted by email. She added that mining there continues on the hobbyist scale, as does a large operation underway for years now at Soledad Mountain outside Mojave.
Tucker said initial exploration of the area where the new drilling is proposed has turned up no sure signs of tortoises. Just to be sure, if the work proceeds, the group will erect fencing around 5 to 10 acres at a time and hire a biologist to ensure no tortoises are located within it, he said.
He said he expects to stick to existing dirt roads in order to minimize impacts on the land. No drilling pad has been proposed for the work.
The project’s environmental review can be found online at https://eplanning. blm.gov/eplanning-ui/ project/2023447/510.
Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by fax to 760-3784-5499, or mailed to the BLM Ridgecrest Field Office, Attn: Randall Porter, 300 S. Richmond Road, Ridgecrest, CA 93555.