Exploration underway around Pajarito Mountain in New Mexico

By Dianne Stallings, Ruidoso News, N.M.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

For the second time, exploratory drilling is underway in an area around Pajarito Mountain on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in a search for financially viable sources of rare earth elements to mine.

But this time, the Bureau of Indian Affairs through the Division of Energy and Mineral Development in Colorado is taking the lead in exploring the mineral resources within a 50-acre site on the side of the 8,014 feet high mountain.

Mescalero President Frederick Chino said Thursday that many steps are involved before actual mining could take place and they would include a vote by tribal members to decide whether to move ahead.

“If we do this, it will be the people’s choice,” he said. “The question will go to the membership with a referendum. Right now, there is a lot of misinformation out there.”

However, a community activist contends many tribal members oppose any disturbance of the mountain they consider sacred and they do not trust that the tribal administration will share information with them.

The existence of rare earth elements on Pajarito Mountain in the northeastern part of the reservation that abuts Ruidoso has been known since the early 1960s, Chino said. Studies to determine the extent of the deposits continued into the 1990s and included an operation by Molycorp Inc.

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Image: Shutterstock.com

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