Idahoans Take Steps to Protect Salmon River from Mine Pollution
Press release announcing ICL's formal questioning of a Forest Service decision allowing mining exploration permits for a cyanide vat-leach gold mine in the headwaters of the South Fork Salmon River.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2012
John Robison, Idaho Conservation League, 208.345.6942 x 13
Karen Balch 208.315.3899, Cascade resident
Idahoans Take Steps to Protect the Salmon River from Mine Pollution
BOISE—The Idaho Conservation League is formally questioning a Forest Service decision allowing Canadian mining company exploration permits to pursue its plans for a cyanide vat-leach gold mine in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River in Valley County.
The company, Midas Gold, has long-term plans for a massive mine in Valley County that would includes three open pits, one of which would require dewatering the East Fork of the Salmon River and routing it in a pipe for several years. When the mining is done, the company would leave millions of tons of mine waste behind at in the Meadow Creek Valley.
As an initial step toward mine development, the Forest Service recently authorized construction of 139 drill pads and 178 drilling holes in the headwaters of the East Fork of the South Fork Salmon River. The Idaho Conservation League is appealing that decision, asking for the Payette National Forest Supervisor to review it.
“The South Fork of the Salmon is one of the prized rivers of Idaho and already worth its weight in gold,” said John Robison, public lands director of the Idaho Conservation League (ICL). “Idaho’s clean water and prized fisheries deserve the highest level of scrutiny, every step of the way.”
The South Fork of the Salmon provides critical habitat to prized fish like Chinook salmon and steelhead, but also bears the scars of past mining. Taxpayer-supported cleanup efforts have been partially successful at reclaiming the area. Nonetheless, water quality testing reveals excessive toxic contamination. In fact, some waters in the area revealed arsenic concentrations over 1,000 times the safe drinking water standard.
“Just one catastrophic fuel spill, one landslide, or one toxic mining waste disaster could create an environmental nightmare for the Salmon River and its tributaries, like Johnson Creek,” said Karen Balch, a Cascade resident who is opposed to both the exploration project and the mine development. “In 1965, a landslide at the Stibnite site sent a sediment cloud all the way down to Riggins. No amount of gold could ever replace the crown jewel of Idaho, the magnificent Salmon River.”
Robison noted that ICL has worked with mining companies elsewhere in Idaho to mitigate environmental impacts of hard-rock mining operations. “Idaho cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of history and allow out-of-state companies to leave their waste behind. Mining has a place in Idaho, but only if we make sure we protect our water, fish and wildlife. After all, it’s much easier to keep our water clean, than it is to clean it up after its been polluted.”