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Group: Mining operation will threaten snail
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MOJAVE  (AP) — An environmental group says a mining company’s plan to extract more than a billion dollars’ worth of gold and silver from a mountain near the desert town of Mojave threatens a snail’s existence and must be halted.

The Center For Biological Diversity says the proposed operation by the Canadian-based Golden Queen Mining Company would threaten as much as 40 percent of the habitat available to the Mohave shoulderband snail, The Bakersfield Californian ( reported Saturday.

Lutz Klingmann of Golden Queen Mining said that the project has already undergone two environmental reviews.

He noted the environmental group never expressed any concern until January, when it filed an emergency request seeking endangered species status for the snail.

“Unfortunately, the snail — no one knew about the snail,” said Noah Greenwald, the group’s endangered species director.

Federal officials concluded in April that the project created “no imminent threat” to the snail.

The environmental group says it may continue to press its claim, however, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged it didn’t have the funds to conduct a full review. The group may also raise the issue that the project could endanger the Townsend big-eared bat, also known as Corynorhinus townsendii.

“We think there’s a need for additional environmental analysis,” Greenwald said.

Golden Queen said it expects to spend $141 million to extract at least 31 tons of gold and 375 tons of silver over 15 years beginning next year. At today’s precious metal prices, that would amount to about $1.5 billion.

The company would crush ore taken from an open pit mine in the mountain, then use a cyanide solution to extract gold and silver.

Company officials say leftover rock would be used for local infrastructure projects and that at the conclusion of the operation the mountain would be returned to its original state.

The project won approval 17 years ago, but Golden Queen put it on hold because of low gold prices at the time. It underwent a second environmental review in 2010 and was approved again.

Kern County officials support the project, which is projected to create as many as 200 local jobs.