Mosquito Gold President and CEO Brian McClay took in stride a federal judge’s decision that the Forest Service needs to do more analysis of its exploration program.
“This is a bump in the road,” the Canadian mining executive said as he waited for a plane at the Boise Airport.
Mosquito Gold is drilling hundreds of holes in the upper part of the Grimes Creek watershed to further map out the so-called CuMo copper and molybdenum ore body. It estimates the deposit is worth as much as $16 billion and could create 1,000 high paying jobs in the Boise Basin for years.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled Thursday that the Forest Service had acted arbitrarily and capriciously by approving drilling there without examining potential effects to groundwater.
It came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United and the Golden Eagle Audubon Society, represented by Advocates for the West and the Western Mining Action Project. These groups have made it clear they oppose the project because it lies within the watershed of the Boise River, a source of water for the entire Treasure Valley.
Some of them are working with mining companies in other areas where they have confidence the companies’ plans will prevent pollution. But the bar is set high in the Boise Basin.
It is not just environmental groups that are concerned about mining in the area. I get calls and emails from residents every time I do a story on mining near the Boise River from regular people who are concerned.
“I have property below the exploration site so am extremely thankful that the drilling is being put on hold,” said Ann Finley of Boise.
Environmentalists haven’t been McClay’s only challenge. A stockholder’s group, disillusioned with his leadership, tried to take over the company late last year.
McClay and his supporters survived. But he still has to deal with those shareholders.
“There’s still friction and hostility between the shareholder group and management,” he said.
But it’s all in a days work for the small companies who try to cash in on the underground wealth they control. There are small deposits like this across the West that companies are at various stages of developing.
To develop the CuMo deposit, someone is going to have to invest $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion, more than Mosquito is ever going to raise by itself. It eventually will need a partner or have to sell to a larger company.
“Our role in this is advancing the ball down the field,” McClay said. “The farther down the field you get, the more the ball’s worth.”
To convince someone CuMo is worth the money, Mosquito Gold has to get them more information to reduce the risk.
Opponents want to do everything they can to increase the risk so the project won’t happen.
McClay was talking to hydrologists Friday to get them working on providing the data the Forest Service needs to satisfy the judge. But Mosquito Gold is going to stay busy in the meantime, McClay said.
“The CuMo project plans no further drilling while it assesses the substantial drill-core data it has gathered this summer and completes a thorough technical review of the court’s order,” he said.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484