Mining: Protecting Water and Habitat

Making Sure Mining Doesn’t Pollute Our Water

Idaho certainly has a long and colorful history of mining—but too many of these mines have polluted streams and contaminated landscapes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 40% of watersheds in the West are contaminated by mining activity.

We all use metals every day. We also chose to live and raise our families in Idaho for its clean air, clean water and abundant public lands. ICL understands we must find ways to meet both those needs.

International mining companies are scouring Idaho’s vast public lands for more ore to extract. It’s a good bet that an exploration drilling project or even a new mine is being proposed upstream of your drinking water, favorite fishing stream or place special to you and your family.

The Idaho Conservation League works to ensure that mining activities don’t threaten human health, special places or Idaho’s clean water. We scrutinize proposed new mines, improving those that are acceptable and fighting those that are not in Idaho’s best interests.

Our Job: Protecting Your Drinking Water

Atlanta Gold and CuMo Projects

The Boise River defines the character of Idaho’s capital and provides much of the city’s drinking water. But two Canadian mining companies are proposing operations in the Boise River headwaters that could contaminate our river with arsenic, heavy metals or industrial chemicals.

  • The Atlanta Gold Project lies in the headwaters of the Middle Fork Boise River. Atlanta Gold had been illegally discharging toxic levels of arsenic into the Boise River headwaters. Based on legal action by ICL, a judge ordered the Atlanta Gold Corporation to clean up this pollution or face additional fines. The project is still in the exploration phase.
  • A Canadian mining company named the American CuMo Mining Corporation wants to develop “the world’s largest open-pit accessible” molybdenum mine in the Boise River headwaters near Idaho City. The CuMo Mine (short for copper and molybdenum) threatens the Boise River watershed with billions of tons of potentially toxic mine waste. ICL successfully appealed exploration drilling over water quality concerns, but the Forest Service is analyzing a new exploration proposal from the mining company.

Our Job: Safeguarding Idaho’s Streams and Wilderness

Midas Gold’s Proposed Stibnite Gold Project

Midas Gold is our favorite mining company with our least favorite project. The staff of the Canadian mining company are professional and dedicated to minimizing impacts from the company’s exploration activities near Yellow Pine. Their stated intent is to clean up and restore sites abandoned by previous mining companies. However, the footprint of the proposed Stibnite Gold Project goes far beyond the footprint of previous mining operations with unacceptable impacts in pristine country. The massive mine project would put the East Fork of the South Fork Salmon River in a pipe and dig an open pit under the riverbed. Mining plans include burying a bull trout spawning area underneath 330 feet of toxic mining tailings and waste rock. The mine is in the advanced planning phases and we are opposed to the current configuration.

Golden Hand Mine

The Golden Hand Mine outside Yellow Pine is located in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Aside from degrading this national treasure, reconstructing the long-abandoned gold mine could contaminate important spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead. As a result of legal work by ICL and partners, exploration drilling on site has been suspended and the company is focusing on other projects outside the wilderness.

Kilgore Project

Another Canadian mining company, Otis Gold, hopes to expand gold exploration operations for the Kilgore Project in the Centennial Mountains of eastern Idaho. Depending on the results of the exploration drilling, the company is considering an open-pit cyanide heap leach mine operation. Ironically, open-pit cyanide heap leach mining is now banned just a few miles to the north in the state of Montana after a series of accidents poisoned wells and left taxpayers with enormous cleanup costs. Both mine exploration and eventual development could not only affect the ability of wildlife to move through the Centennials but also affect downstream water users.

What You Can Do

Become a member today and protect the Idaho you love!