For Immediate Release: Monday, October 23, 2023


John Robison, Public Lands Director, Idaho Conservation League, (208) 345-6933 x 213

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

Nick Kunath, Conservation Program Manager, Idaho Rivers United, (208) 908-9232

Bryan Hurlbutt, Staff Attorney, Advocates for the West, (208) 342-7024 x 206

Cynthia Wallesz, Executive Director, Golden Eagle Audubon, (208) 995-7400

Local groups raise alarm for mining company’s plans to explore for an open-pit mine in headwaters of Boise River

The CuMo Mine Exploration Project in the Boise National Forest poses major threats to water quality, fish and wildlife.

BOISE, ID – Local conservation groups are speaking out against a mining exploration project proposal in the headwaters of the Boise River. Idaho Copper is seeking approval from the U.S. Forest Service to construct up to eight miles of new roads and clear 122 drill pads on National Forest lands near Grimes Creek. Through this project, called the CuMo Mine Exploration Project, Idaho Copper hopes to find sufficient copper and molybdenum to excavate one of the largest open-pit accessible molybdenum mines in the world – all within the Boise River watershed.

“Just the exploration alone poses threats to our water quality, recreation, traffic, public safety, and wildlife – and it is a dangerous stepping stone to massive amounts of pollution in the Boise River headwaters from an open pit mine,” said John Robison, Public Lands Director with the Idaho Conservation League. 

The Boise River is the lifeblood of the Treasure Valley. The exploration site is upstream of half of Idaho’s population, and the Boise River watershed provides approximately 30 percent of Boise’s drinking water supply and irrigates over 300,000 acres of farmland. This proposal places the entire watershed – and all who rely on it – at unacceptable risk.

“Despite the fact that this project is still in its exploration phase, it warrants incredible concern when you look at published documents from the company. If all goes to plan, this project will result in one of the largest open-pit mines in the Americas that has the potential to jeopardize one of Boise’s primary sources of drinking water,” said Nick Kunath, Conservation Program Manager at Idaho Rivers United.

“The project site includes some of the best forest habitat remaining in the Boise Basin for an array of wildlife, including sensitive species like great grey owl, American goshawk, and wolverine,” said Cynthia Wallesz, Executive Director of the Golden Eagle Audubon Society. “The exploration area also hosts a rare flower found only in the mountains of central Idaho, Sacajawea’s bitterroot.”

This isn’t the first time a variation of this project has been proposed, or that conservation groups have spoken out and taken action. A federal court struck down the project in 2012 because the Forest Service failed to adequately assess the risks that extensive underground drilling could contaminate groundwater. The court struck it down again in 2016 because of the project’s threats to Sacajawea’s bitterroot. 

“Don’t be fooled by the mining company’s new name and branding,” warned Bryan Hurlbutt, an attorney with Advocates for the West who represented the conservation groups in the 2012 and 2016 litigation. “This is the same troubled project that has failed to get off the ground for over a decade now, and it still poses unacceptable risks to our public lands and the Boise River watershed.”  

Because the CuMo Mine Exploration Project is located mostly on public National Forest lands, Idaho Copper needs approval from the U.S. Forest Service. 

The Forest Service is currently taking public comments on issues to consider in its analysis. The public is encouraged to speak up about their personal thoughts and concerns over the project and how it might affect their use of public lands. Public comments should be submitted to the Forest Service by Nov. 2 to ensure they are included in the agency’s analysis of the project. The Forest Service is expected to release a draft Environmental Assessment for additional public comment this winter.

B-roll of the project area can be found here, courtesy EcoFlight


ICL’s mission is to create a conservation community and pragmatic, enduring solutions that protect and restore the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the land and wildlife you love.

IRU’s mission is to protect and restore the rivers and fisheries of Idaho.

Advocates for the West is a non-profit, public interest environmental law firm headquartered in Boise, Idaho, that works to defend public lands, water, fish, and wildlife throughout the American West.

Golden Eagle Audubon is dedicated to building an understanding, appreciation, and respect for the natural world in order to conserve and restore natural ecosystems for birds and other wildlife.