The U.S. Forest Service is starting the permitting process for Midas Gold’s Stibnite Gold Project. The Canadian mining company’s open pit mine project is in the headwaters of the South Fork Salmon, a place revered for its salmon, wild country and world-class whitewater.

The project is being touted as a benign restoration project-and it does have some creative restoration components around the edges. However, the fact remains that this is a massive open pit cyanide vat leach mining project with significant adverse impacts to fisheries and a real risk of worsening water quality. Previous mining companies at Stibnite have been unable to manage arsenic problems and have left behind a polluted landscape and left taxpayers on the hook for cleanup costs despite promises otherwise.

New Study Shows 74% of Gold Mines Pollute Water

A new study released this week examines the track records of the 27 gold mining companies that are responsible for 93% of gold production in the U.S. The study found that every single one of these modern, state-of-the-art mining projects accidentally spilled cyanide, mine waste, diesel fuel, or other hazardous materials.  Of the companies, 74% contaminated surface or ground water supplies with mine pollution, resulting in impacts such as fish kills and contaminated drinking water supplies.

Proposed Stibnite Gold Project Is Complex and High Risk

Stibnite Gold is arguably more complex and high risk than any of these other mines. None of these other mines proposed to dewater a fork of the Salmon River to excavate an open pit 400 ft below the riverbed.

Midas Gold recently provided a bulleted list (in italics below) highlighting the restoration benefits of the project. However, this list neglects to mention the very real public costs.

Without the Stibnite Gold Project, fish will never migrate back to historic spawning grounds.

Maybe, but with the project the fish that do migrate back would find that over a mile of historic spawning grounds will be buried under hundreds of feet of new mine tailings and waste rock.

Without the Stibnite Gold Project, millions of tons of legacy spent ore, waste rock and tailings will remain a potential source of water contamination.

Maybe, but the project will generate millions of more tons of new spent ore, waste rock and tailings that will pose new potential sources of water contamination.

Without the Stibnite Gold Project, hundreds of tons of sediment will continue to wash into our rivers and streams.

Maybe, but with the project, hundreds of tons of new sediment, rocks, dust and debris will be disturbed. For example, a new haul road on the edge of the Frank Church Wilderness is being proposed as one way to reduce sediment and fisheries impacts.

Without the Stibnite Gold Project, the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River will continue to flow straight into an abandoned mine pit.  

Maybe, but with the project the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River will flow straight into a tunnel and the river channel will be turned into an open pit during the operating life of the Yellow Pine pit.

We give Midas Gold credit for emphasizing the restoration potential on the site but they continue to downplay the negatives in their mining plan. Idahoans need to know the true costs and potential risks to our water. The Midas Gold team is smart and committed and they need to work with the community to come up with a better plan to restore the site that doesn’t require destroying other parts.

Your Comments Are Needed

Demand that the Forest Service take a hard look at impacts over the entire project, develop alternatives that minimize impacts, and reject gambits that place the South Fork Salmon River at risk. The Forest Service will accept comments throughout the analysis process. Send in your comments  now!