Editor’s note: This McCall Star-News editorial was published Thursday, June 22, 2017, and is reprinted here with permission. Because the Star-News requires an online or paper subscription, the entire editorial is included here.
In the 2014 movie "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Star-Lord" Peter Quill asks his interstellar compatriots what they would like to do next: "Something good? Something bad? A bit of both?" The same questions are likely going through the minds of regulators, local government officials and citizens of Valley County as Midas Gold Inc. formally begins the permitting phase of its planned mega gold mine near Yellow Pine.
Next week, a series of what the Payette National Forest calls "scoping meetings" will be held in Cascade, McCall and Boise. Up until now, the public has only seen the road show crafted by Midas Gold, the Vancouver, B.C., company that hopes to extract five million ounces of gold from the Stibnite area over 12 years. Those presentations have been slick and sophisticated, with the company’s mantra, "Restore The Site" prominent in its message.
The objective of the company is to dangle the carrot of restoring decades of abuse and pollution at Stibnite in front of the agencies and the public to ease the way for its own plans to totally transform the landscape in pursuit of riches. Midas has even put the spin into the title of its application, calling it a "Plan of Restoration and Operations" rather than the usual title for such documents of "Plan of Operations."
Next week, the Payette forest gets its turn to counter the Midas Gold company line, outlining the long list of studies, surveys and examinations needed to ensure the project does not harm the environment, either during its construction, while gold is being extracted or after Midas Gold is just a memory. The federal process is expected to take years, although Midas is pushing the Payette to complete its work quickly.
The question of whether mining will be done at Stibnite is not at issue. The Mining Act of 1872 guarantees miners can take out whatever minerals are under federal land. The question is how many restrictions, regulations, precautions and safeguards will be required by the Payette forest as well as myriad of other federal, state and local agencies to ensure the public land is protected. Part of that process, required in federal law, is public involvement, which is why next week’s meetings have been scheduled. These meetings, as well as the window for written comments, will seek the opinion of those in favor of the project, those against the project, and those who just want to make sure the air, land and water are not spoiled.
The heroes of "Guardians of the Galaxy" were able to save the universe, but all the Payette National Forest wants to do is make sure an historically battered and defiled piece of federal land has a fighting chance against the motives of industry.