For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Randy Fox, Public Lands Associate, (208) 345-6933 x 510

Abby Urbanek, Communications & Marketing Manager, (208) 345-6933 x 214

Idaho Conservation League joins lawsuit challenging U.S. Forest Service’s approval of Perpetua Resources’ Burntlog Route Geophysical Investigation

MCCALL, ID – On Monday, May 27, the Idaho Conservation League joined Save the South Fork Salmon and Idaho Rivers United in challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of the Burntlog Route Geophysical Investigation Project in federal court. 

The Burntlog Route is one of two potential access routes to Perpetua Resources’ proposed Stibnite Gold Mine in Valley County in the headwaters of the South Fork Salmon River. The alternate Johnson Creek Route would widen the existing access roads along Johnson Creek and the Yellow Pine-Stibnite Road. 

Perpetua’s preferred mine road, called the Burntlog Route, would widen 23 miles of the existing Burnt Log Road (FR447) and require construction of 15 miles of an entirely new road near Burnt Log Creek, through the Burntlog, Black Lake, and Meadow Creek Inventoried Roadless Areas, and along the boundary of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. If built, the route would be Idaho’s second-highest elevation road maintained year-round. This mine road would require significant avalanche mitigation and road plowing, increase sediment delivery to sensitive waterways, and fragment habitat for sensitive species such as wolverine.

The Forest Service had previously determined that Burnt Log Creek is eligible for the highest level of protection under the National Wild and Scenic River System because of the outstandingly remarkable fisheries values. Burnt Log Creek supports Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and westslope cutthroat trout. 

The purpose of the Burntlog Geophysical Investigation is to collect geophysical data at proposed rock quarries, bridge abutments, cut slopes, and soil nail/mechanically stabilized earth wall locations. The project involves utilizing dynamic cone penetrometer testing, a track mounted excavator, a truck/track mounted hollow stem auger/core rig, and a helicopter assisted casing advancer/core drill rig. 

Perpetua Resources plans to investigate 24 locations by drilling or excavating 40 borings/test pits to determine if the proposed route is feasible as an access route for the proposed cyanide vat leach mine.

Drilling and/or excavating would occur along the existing Burnt Log Road as well as in the Burntlog, Black Lake, and Meadow Creek Inventoried Roadless Areas, adjacent to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, within the eligible Burntlog Creek Wild and Scenic River Corridor, and along protected riparian areas in the headwaters of Johnson Creek, a tributary to the South Fork Salmon River. 

The Forest Service analyzed this project separately from the larger Stibnite Gold Project, stating that this is an independent, stand-alone project from the mine. The Forest Service also elected to categorically exclude the project from additional analysis in an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement, which is more commonly done for complex projects in sensitive areas.

Perpetua’s Stibnite Gold Project would double the amount of disturbance in this previously-mined area. The current mine plan involves excavating a 720’ deep open pit underneath the riverbed of the East Fork South Fork Salmon River, along with two other pits,  constructing permanent mine waste dumps, and filling upper Meadow Creek with 100 million tons of mine tailings behind a 475’ high tailings dam. Water pollution from mining activities will require decades of water treatment post-closure. 

Save the South Fork Salmon and Idaho Rivers United filed the original case on May 6, 2024, arguing that the Forest Service violated federal law by failing to analyze the potential impacts of the geophysical investigations as part of the larger Stibnite Gold Project. The plaintiffs further state that the Forest Service failed to adequately consider the potential impacts to species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including Chinook salmon, bull trout, wolverine, and whitebark pine.

“We cannot overstate the outstandingly remarkable values of Burnt Log Creek and the surrounding backcountry areas,” said John Robison, Public Lands & Wildlife Director for the Idaho Conservation League. “Approving this undertaking without proper vetting and without knowing when, or if, the route and mine will be approved is one more instance of premature decision-making for this high-risk project.”

The Burntlog lawsuit follows a recent decision by Idaho’s Board of Environmental Quality to invalidate a previously approved air quality permit that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued in 2023 regarding underestimations of cancer risk.

“The Burntlog project is yet another example of a premature decision in an attempt to fast-track approval of the Stibnite Gold Project and it unnecessarily threatens natural resources critical to the South Fork Salmon River watershed,” said Julie Thrower, attorney for the conservation groups.