Project Is Not as Protective of Water Quality as Federal Law Requires

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, October 6, 2015


  • John Robison, Idaho Conservation League, 208-345-6933 x 13,
  • Liz Paul, Idaho Rivers United, 208-343-7481,
  • Pam Conley, Golden Eagle Audubon, 208-869-0337,

Boise, ID – On Monday, October 5, the U.S. Forest Service issued a Decision Notice authorizing the next phase of exploration for the CuMo Project in the Grimes Creek watershed in the headwaters of the Boise River.

The project entails constructing up to 10.2 miles of roads, clearing up to 137 drill pads and drilling as many as 259 exploration holes. The purpose is to further delineate an ore body that Canadian mining company CuMoCo hopes to develop into an open-pit copper, molybdenum and silver mine.

This is the second time the Forest Service has authorized this exploration project. In 2012, a federal judge determined that the Forest Service had not adequately considered potential groundwater impacts from the exploration project and instructed them to do additional analysis.

After reviewing the new analysis, local conservation groups representing citizens who live downstream from the project area remain concerned that the approved project is not as protective of water quality as federal law requires.

While much of the Grimes Creek watershed was damaged by historic dredge mining, the upper stretches of Grimes Creek support native fish and wildlife. “The CuMo exploration area is in the best of the Grimes Creek watershed, which flows into the Boise River," said Pam Conley, Golden Eagle Audubon. "The area is also home to the largest known populations in the world of the rare plant Sacajawea’s bitterroot. The Forest Service needs to do a better job of protecting this area from the hazards of mining exploration.”

Liz Paul, Idaho Rivers United’s Boise River campaign coordinator, said, "The Forest Service is putting the Boise River at risk by allowing this mineral exploration."

Historic mines in the area have high arsenic levels and the groups are concerned that drilling operations could change groundwater flows or contaminate local springs. The groups argue that the Forest Service has not established the necessary baseline studies to see what effect drilling operations may have on water flowing from springs and seeps.

"The Forest Service is still not doing its due diligence to protect public water supplies in advance of issuing this decision," said John Robison, public lands director for the Idaho Conservation League. "We are examining our legal options to protect the Boise River headwaters."