Making Sure Mining Doesn’t Pollute Our Water

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.

Idaho certainly has its share of 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.

But with mineral prices at a record high, international mining companies are scouring Idaho’s vast public lands for more ore to extract. With today’s gold rush, it’s a good bet that a mine is proposed upstream of your drinking water, favorite fishing stream or place special to you and your family. Mining companies are looking out for their bottom line, but who’s looking out for the values that belong to all of us? Idaho cannot afford to repeat mistakes of the past. Here’s how the Idaho Conservation League is looking out for all of us.

Our Job: Protecting Your Drinking Water

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

  • 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 additional exploration is proposed.
  • 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.

Our Job: Safeguarding Idaho’s Streams and Wilderness

  • Canadian mining company Midas Gold wants to cash in on deposits east of Cascade. Midas hopes to place the East Fork of the South Fork Salmon River in a pipe and dig an open pit under the riverbed. Mining plans include constructing a 500-foot dam in the valley upstream to permanently store toxic mine tailings. A bull trout spawning area would be permanently buried 330 feet deep under the tailings pile and waste rock dam. ICL successfully appealed exploration drilling over water quality concerns, but additional exploration is proposed.
  • The Golden Hand Mine outside Yellow Pine is located in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Beside degrading this national treasure, reconstructing this long-abandoned gold mine could contaminate important spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead. The mine is still in the exploration phase. ICL and others have filed suit to protect the Wilderness from needlessly destructive activities.

Our Job: Looking at the Big Picture

  • Mining on public land is managed under an archaic law passed in 1872, 18 years before Idaho was granted statehood. This law dictates that mining takes top priority on millions of acres of Idaho’s national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. Communities across the West are working to reform the 1872 Mining Law and level the playing field so that local concerns—such as community drinking water, agriculture, fish and wildlife, and recreation—are finally given equal consideration.

What You Can Do

Become a member today and protect the Idaho you love!