"Last year, we completed an Aquifer Protection Permit for a gold mine in the Prescott region. We are also currently designing a two-mile stormwater channel to repair damage done by a flash flood in a region previously affected by a fire that resulted in a debris flow flood."
Can you tell us about the origins of Civil & Environmental Consultants and give us an overview of your mining services?
CEC was founded in 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with one of its focuses being on the mining industry in that region. CEC works in the coal, aggregates, and hard rock mining industry. As our name states, we do both civil and environmental engineering, depending on the office location. Some of our services include environmental permitting, stream restoration, surveying (drone and underground), civil design, and air quality permitting/testing.
What services have been driving CEC’s growth in recent years, especially in Arizona?
Our water resources and civil practices have been performing well over the last few years. In 2021, we saw 35% growth in our aggregates business. Another interesting development we have noticed this year, mainly due to the energy crisis, is a resurgence in demand for our coal-related services.
Can you share some insight into the mine permitting process in Arizona?
In the mining industry, there are two permitting avenues. The most difficult one is if you are trying to develop a mine on state or federal lands. As an example, Hudbay’s Rosemont project was initially on Forest Service land, and therefore was subject to public scrutiny and open to litigation. The other permitting avenue applies to projects on patented mining claims in privately held land. In these cases, you just need to go through the normal state permitting process, which is much easier. One of the most important things to take into consideration in Arizona is the stringent water regulations. If you are processing minerals, you must apply for an Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) to ensure your operation does not affect groundwater. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is updating the Best Available Control Technology manual for the mining industry that helps set established design guidelines for engineering companies. If you are able to show that you can design/operate within these guidelines and are not impacting surface or groundwater, the permitting process is easier.
Can you highlight some of the key projects CEC has been involved with in Arizona?
Last year, we completed an Aquifer Protection Permit for a gold mine in the Prescott region. Within the patented property footprint, there was an old abandoned mine contaminating the local stream. To solve this, CEC designed and built a passive wetlands remediation system, and put metal adsorbing plants in each of the five ponds that can soak up minerals out of the water. We are also currently designing a two-mile stormwater channel to repair damage done by a flash flood in a region previously affected by a fire that resulted in a debris flow flood. We completed the due diligence for Ivanhoe Electric, which recently moved into Arizona and is looking at developing a large project near Casa Grande. This project is going to be interesting because Ivanhoe Electric will likely use in-situ copper mining techniques, one of the new technologies that is being used in Arizona and which was pioneered by the Florence copper project – now Excelsior’s Gunnison copper project.
How does CEC manage to stand out from other consultancy firms?
Our clients and our people are the core of CEC. It is hard to compete with large international firms, but we are able to provide niche or smaller design projects that larger firms cannot get to. An example is a raffinate pond we just pre-designed for Carlota’s Pinto Valley mine. CEC is very competitive in the US$100,000-200,000 project range.
What potential does Arizona’s mining industry hold for CEC?
The whole industry has been talking about rare earths, and there are a couple of large deposits in Arizona that will likely be developed. We will continue to see major finds in copper thanks to the geology of Arizona and the abundant copper reserves in the state. This comes at a very necessary time given the push towards electrification and the ongoing energy transition. However, the mining industry will continue dealing with supply chain issues and shipping/supply chain problems, and will continue looking for ways to achieve cost efficiency while minimizing environmental or social impacts.