The Bureau of Land Management has approved a small mining operation within the Mount Pennell Wilderness Study Area of the Henry Mountains, about 25 miles south of Hanksville.

On June 9, a miner contacted a BLM employee about re-entering an inactive mine on the mountain, which he had leased.The miner, not named in an environmental assessment prepared by the BLM, had begun mining earlier in June. He said he wanted to cooperate with federal rules, according to Larry R. Oldroyd, acting manager of the BLM's Richfield District.

BLM officials went to see the mine and discovered that the activities were unauthorized and inside the Mount Pennell Wilderness Study Area. The miner was told to cease all mining and present a plan of operations. The plan was submitted on June 17.

The mine is on a claim that was located on July 1, 1955. Since then, assessment work - the $100 worth of work needed to be done every year to keep a claim current - has been performed as required.

"The section of the trail extending from the Straight Creek Road to the mine, a distance of about 450 feet, had been widened prior to June 9, 1988, to a width of four feet and leveled with a bulldozer so that it would accommodate the use of a front-end loader," says the environmental assessment. "This resulted in some cutting of the slope on the uphill side of the trail."

Also, a trench about three or four feet deep was dug from the mine portal to the trail, about 30 feet long. This was done to facilitate using a bucket loader to haul ore from the mine.

The assessment says the purpose of the mining activity is to explore the "Mount Pennell No. 4 Prospect for economic mineral deposits." It's necessary to decide if there are valuable minerals in the old mine.

The project is expected to be a one- or two-man operation. Nobody would camp or live at the site.

"These prospecting and reclamation activities would be completed by Sept. 30, 1989," says the report.

Reclamation would involve filling in the trench, reseeding a talus slope and removing all equipment. The new activities are supposed to be "substantially unnoticeable" by Sept. 30, 1989.

Francis A. Rakow, acting manager of the BLM's Henry Mountain Resource Area, concluded that the mining will not impair the suitability of the region for wilderness protection.

Besides, he wrote, the mine may be a valid existing right under the law, since the assessment work was performed for more than three decades.