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Mining Project Threatens Jewel of Clearwater

Posted by Jonathan Oppenheimer at May 03, 2011 02:10 PM |
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A miner wants to excavate trenches to explore for gold in the Clearwater National Forest. The project is along a pristine stream in the Mallard Larkins proposed Wilderness area.

Mining Project Threatens Jewel of Clearwater

Idaho's Mallard Larkins proposed Wilderness has long been recognized for clean water, wildlife habitat and scenic quality. Jay Krajic photo

Last month, we received a request for comments from the Clearwater National Forest on a proposal for a miner to explore for gold along pristine Roaring Creek in the Mallard Larkins Roadless Area.

Recognizing that we might have some issues with the project due to its location within a proposed wilderness area, the Idaho Conservation League started asking questions.

Apparently, an out of state hunter discovered a nugget of gold in the area while on a visit to Idaho last fall. So, even though the area is miles from the nearest road and miles from the nearest trail, he thought it would be a great place to put a mine. 

He's proposing to land a helicopter in the gravel bar, unload an excavator, drive it across the stream and dig a series of pits next to Roaring Creek, running the gravels through a placer operation in search of gold. To boot, he'll store a 100-gallon diesel tank along the edge of the stream. 

Under the Mining Law of 1872 the Forest Service is unfortunately required to approve reasonable operations. In our opinion this just isn't a realistic—or reasonable—proposal.

First, the miner hasn't even "staked" a valid claim under the Mining Law of 1872. The Forest Service shouldn't waste time until the miner can demonstrate the validity of the claim.

Second, the impacts to Roaring Creek will violate Clean Water Act standards which require the State of Idaho to protect pristine waters.

Finally, mining simply isn't consistent with protection of the Mallard Larkins area, which has long been recognized as appropriate for Wilderness designation. In 1969, the Forest Service designated the area as the only Pioneer Area in the nation, recognizing the outstanding scenic values and primitive recreational opportunities. For decades, ICL has joined with others in advocating for the permanent protection of this area. That's why ICL and partners are working to provide permanent protection for this and other areas as a participant in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative. 

To join with us in opposition to this project, let the Forest Service know what YOU think.

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