There was a time when I thought the Stibnite Gold Project may be favorable for Valley County. After all, the proposed location is a previously impacted mine site and is predicted to create many jobs. However, we need to take a closer look at what the Stibnite Gold Project really has to offer.
Midas Gold Corp. has worked to establish itself as part of the community through its Idaho-based subsidiary, Midas Gold Idaho Inc. It created a board of directors with prominent local individuals, it has built ballparks, donated to various organizations and events, given friendly site tours, created community foundations, etc.
Midas is everywhere in our communities. Their main pitch has been to “restore the site.” They continuously tout their commitment to the environment, to improve water quality, and restore fish habitat.
Midas Gold is full of well-intended people who genuinely believe in these efforts. We should commend them, but also not lose sight that this is a large scale open-pit mine with unavoidable consequences.
Midas Gold Corp. is publicly-traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange and is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. They did not just show up in Valley County to spread good will and clean up the environment.
Midas Gold Idaho was created to help the local community get on board by giving a friendly face to the project. When the permits are in place it is likely that Barrick Gold Corporation of Toronto, Canada will be the primary investor in the project.
The scope and scale of past mining in the district pales in comparison to the current proposal. Even under good stewardship, large-scale open-pit mining creates environmental risks and challenges that are impossible to accurately predict.
The impacts will be far-reaching. Small Forest Service roads will be widened and expanded, extending miles from the project. Large truck traffic will intensify on highways, in towns and in the backcountry.
There will be years of daily blasting echoing through mountain valleys. There will be permanent massive scars from the pits and tailings, with the ever-present risk of contaminates flowing downriver.
Most people who live or visit here enjoy some element of the vast, largely uninhabited lands of Valley County. If you hunt, fish, hike, raft, enjoy camping, Sunday drives in the woods, seek peace and solitude away from busy life, or your livelihood depends on tourism, you need to ask what this project has to offer. Whether you live here because it’s a good place to grow old or raise a family and appreciate peaceful communities, then ask what this project has to offer.
Our economy is booming. We have a workforce shortage. Yet, we appear to be whole-heartedly welcoming a Canadian company to town, further straining our local resources and infrastructure.
Things are not financially perfect here in Valley County, but we have a lot going for us, including a growing economy. Would it be more prudent to work with and improve upon what we have? Does it make sense to reshape our communities and economy around an industry that will inevitably bust?
Midas has always controlled the conversation. They tell us we should want this mine, but we need to be asking if we really want this mine. It’s time for our communities to gain control and start asking more questions. We should look beyond the touted short-term benefits offered by Midas, and more closely examine past and present large-scale mining operations and their impacts on communities.
I would argue there are no benefits to our local communities that even come close to outweighing the risks and impacts of this project. By endorsing Midas, we are simply inviting a foreign mining company to come in and make billions of dollars extracting our resources, all with little cost or consequence for them.
Don’t just listen to Midas’ ad campaign. Instead, let’s have conversations about how an open-pit mine at the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River may be good for Midas-Barrick, but poses a real threat to the long-term economic, social, and environmental resources of our communities.
Tor Anderson lives in McCall
Originally printed in the McCall Star-News, Dec. 19, 2019