The U.S. Forest Service has approved a mining company to conduct more exploratory drilling near Idaho City.
The Idaho CuMo Corp. formerly Mosquito Gold, hopes to further delineate the copper-molybdenum deposit it owns as it moves toward completing its own mining feasibility study and environmental impact statement.
It hopes to open the mine it estimates has $16 billion of ore, which would make it the largest molybdenum mine in the world.
For Idaho and Boise County it could mean 1,000 long-term, high-paying jobs that would transform Idaho City into one of the most prosperous rural communities in the state. But the company has to convince environmentalists and regulators and likely a judge that the mine can be operated safely without degrading the water that eventually runs into the Boise River.
Boise National Forest Supervisor Cecilia Seesholtz approved construction and use of a temporary road system to access up to 137 drill pad locations and the drilling of up to 259 drill holes.
Forest officials worked on objections during August and September to the project by environmental groups.
“I am committed to an open and transparent information sharing process that will provide the necessary level and type of information on a regular basis,” said Seesholtz. “Information will include progress of exploration activities, process to approve proposed temporary road and drill pads, and the results of monitoring for Best Management Practices.”
Critics raised concerns about transporting fuel over Grimes Pass. The Forest Service said the route will only be used for emergency access. Also, several wildlife issues were addressed related to habitat and nesting sites.
"The CuMo exploration area is in the best of the Grimes Creek watershed, which flows into the Boise River,” said Pam Conley, of the Golden Eagle Audubon chapter in Boise. “The area is also home to the largest known populations in the world of the rare plant Sacajawea's bitterroot.”
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.