Minimizing impacts and Preserving High-Value Communities
As stewards of the land, the members of HPS understand the importance of minimizing impacts to the land and preserving valuable, intact ecological communities, which is why the proposed mining plan avoids the majority of the wetlands and surface waters on site.
Of the total project acreage, approximately 41% (4,331.28 acres) is wetlands and 1.24% (132.27 acres) is other surface waters such as cattle ponds, ditches, rivers and streams. The mining plan proposes to leave avoid 69% of wetlands and 56% of surface waters. These avoided areas will be undisturbed by mining or related activities, with minimal exceptions for utility and equipment crossings, and will actually be enhanced and then preserved as part of the planned activities.
In evaluating areas for avoidance, HPS placed an emphasis on preserving those communities that served the highest functions, particularly streams and forested wetlands. To determine the highest value areas, the HPS team conducted multiple site visits, reviewed current and historic aerial photographs, and researched scientific databases. They exhaustively evaluated factors including utilization by wildlife, hydrology, contiguity, soil type, and vegetative communities.
As a result of this evaluation, more than 4,857 acres of high-quality wildlife habitat will be avoided, including 79 % of all streams on site, and the entirety of the New River. The areas proposed for avoidance are largely concentrated along the riparian corridors and include wetlands and supportive uplands. In this way, the avoided areas can support wildlife through all stages of the life cycle and served as a refuge allowing animals to move throughout the site during the life of the mine and beyond.
The most prominent achievement of HPS’s avoidance efforts is the New River Riparian Corridor. This area, running through the center of the mine, comprises 2,736 acres of high-value land and is dominated by forested wetlands. Other key avoidance areas include a 34-acre forested and herbaceous wetland area adjacent to an unnamed tributary; two large, forested wetland systems totaling about 60 acres; f forested wetlands located along the western boundary of the Bradford County portion of the mine site totaling about 22 acres; Fivemile Creek and the majority of the forested wetlands surrounding Fivemile Creek on the project site in Union County; and various forested and herbaceous uplands located immediately adjacent to and interior to proposed wetland preservation areas.
There will be limited, mitigated impacts to these avoided areas to construct four infrastructure crossings to move utilities and equipment throughout the site. The infrastructure crossings are proposed for construction only at the time they are needed, and each will be dismantled and the area restored when its usefulness is expired. One life-of-mine crossing of the New River is proposed, which will consist of the insertion of wooden pilings in the river for a trestle that an elevated, covered conveyor system passing above the river; three temporary utility and dragline crossings will be constructed across three smaller streams. Each of these proposed impacts has been specifically designed and sited to have minimal effect on the functions of these waterbodies.