Tribe Goes Up Against Gold Co. Again; Decision Delayed – Calexico Chronicle

EL CENTRO — For the second time in three months, SMP Gold Corp.’s reclamation plan for its proposed mining project in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains and Indian Pass region of eastern Imperial County has been delayed.

After testimony for and against the project last week, the Imperial County Planning Commission continued the issue until the next commission meeting in January due to some reports being incomplete and not all of the commissioners’ questions able to be answered by SMP Gold. 

The Planning Commission meeting in which this occurred — Wednesday, Dec. 13 — was yet another instance where members of the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation made their presence known to oppose the ongoing effort of SMP Gold to revive mineral exploration of the Oro Cruz Mine Area on US Bureau of Land Management land.

SMP Gold’s plans, members of the tribe have said, will disturb the habitat and land of great religious and historical significance for the Quechan. Indian Pass and the surrounding area contains sleeping circles, geoglyphs and pottery shards left behind by the tribe’s ancestors, to name some artifacts, according to tribal members.

The Imperial County Planning Commission hears testimony for and against the SMP Gold Corp. project on Wednesday, Dec. 13. | DELFINO MATUS PHOTO

In August, BLM approved SMP Gold’s plan to drill up to 65 holes and temporarily disturb about 20 acres of BLM land until the project’s completion, said Graham Stevens, an environmental consultant working on behalf of the county..

The Canadian company must receive approval from the county of Imperial on its reclamation plan before moving forward. Its proposed plan would consist of using existing roads, constructing new temporary exploration drilling access roads, up to eight helicopter landing pads, and 65 drill pads that would support seven drill areas in the Winterhaven area, according to documents.

Jason Andrews, a Quechan Tribe member, speaks against the SMP Gold Corp. project planned for the Cargo Muchacho Mountains and Indian Pass in eastern Imperial County, during an Imperial County Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13. | DELFINO MATUS PHOTO

SMP Gold Corp. would conduct up to 20 acres of surface mineral exploration within a 600-acre area to locate gold deposits.

The ongoing strife between SMP Gold and the Quechan Tribe is an area of concern and is being directly addressed, but not to everyone’s satisfaction.

“Both the county and BLM have been engaging with local tribes since March 2021. Seven certified letters were sent by the BLM, three presentations given by the BLM, including three specifically at Quechan Tribal Council meetings, and a tribal site visit conducted in September 2022 with both BLM and county representatives in attendance,” Stevens told the Planning Commission.

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Quechan members at the meeting to voice their concerns let the commission know that the meetings that were said to have taken place were not with the Quechan Tribal Council, and no one had record of what was said or what action was taken.

“The only meeting that took place was Nov. 3 with the Tribal Council, and it is on record that is the only time. We have record of that meeting, and it was recorded,” said Ina M. Hall, vice president of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation Tribal Council.

“We are a very proud nation that sticks to our culture, and bringing these mines into our ancestorial lands is basically raping our mother, our creator,” Jason Andrews, a Quechan Tribe member, said.

In addition to continuing for completed reports, the Planning Commission indicated a desire to speak to both sides — SMP Gold Corp. representative and members of the tribe — of the issue either at the next meeting or before then.

SMP Gold Corp. is being allowed to move forward with mineral exploration on public lands within the Oro Cruz Pit Area (inset) in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains in eastern Imperial County, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has announced. | BLM/CALEXICO CHRONICLE MAP

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