Payette National Forest officials have met with Midas Gold Corp. and critics over the latest round of objections to the Vancouver, B.C., company’s plans in the historic Stibnite mining district in Valley County.
Midas Gold wants permission to expand drilling in its Golden Meadows Project to set up 139 drilling pads in 26 areas on Payette forest land.
Forest officials approved an expanded drilling program last October but reversed the decision in January based on objections from the same critics who filed the new complaints: the Nez Perce Tribe, the Idaho Conservation League and Cascade veterinarians Olin and Karen Balch. Midas Gold filed a new plan last spring, but the critics were not impressed.
“The mineral exploration activities, if implemented, would adversely impact and irreparably harm the natural qualities of Payette National Forest and would degrade the watershed and wildlife habitat,” the Idaho Conservation League objection said.
The conservation group also worries that diesel fuel and gasoline that would be hauled to the project site in trucks might result in a spill into waterways and kill fish.
The league wants the Forest Service to conduct a full-blown environmental study on the entire mining proposal rather than the more limited study conducted for the proposed drilling expansion.
Drilling so far by the company has shown favorable concentrations of gold, silver and antimony, and Midas Gold wants to gather more samples before deciding whether to begin mining.
The Nez Perce Tribe is worried about historical tribal fishing areas along the South Fork of the Salmon River, where chinook salmon are listed as threatened by the federal government.
“Any impacts on salmon ... will have a disproportionate impact on the tribe due to their reliance on fish and the importance of fish to tribal culture, spirituality and economy,” the objection said.
Large amounts of traffic to and from the mining region could send choking sediment into the South Fork and nearby streams, the tribe’s objection said.
The Balches echoed the other objections, saying there was no guarantee there would be money to pay for any damage caused by future mining.
“Damage to these areas would be extremely costly to public taxpayers who cherish these areas,” they said.