Clark Corbin

(Idaho Capital Sun) Officials with the Payette and Boise national forests are again asking for the public to weigh in on a proposal to restart mining activities at an abandoned pit mine located outside of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

The U.S. Forest Service released the supplemental draft environmental impact statements regarding a gold mining company called Perpetua Resources’ (formerly Midas Gold) proposals to resume operations at the historic, abandoned Stibnite Mine. The mine is located outside of the tiny town of Yellow Pine in central Idaho’s Valley County. The gold mine project is located on the Payette National Forest, with a portion extending into the Boise National Forest.

Perpetua Resources’ proposal calls for reopening pit mining for gold and antimony at the Stibnite Gold Project. Antimony is a chemical element found in minerals that Perpetua Resources officials say can be used in making liquid metal batteries and ammunition. Perpetua Resource’s plans call for cleaning up some of the historic mine waste. Mining in the area began in about 1899 and continued into the 1990s, when the most recent mining operations ceased.

Perpetua Resources officials say their proposal is a responsible way to resume mining operations while cleaning up legacy waste that has polluted waters that are home to trout and salmon with arsenic and sediment. As things stand today, the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River flows into an abandoned pit mine.

Perpetua Resources’ plan has opposition in conservationists, Nez Perce Tribe

However, some environmental conservationists and the Nez Perce Tribe oppose the mining proposal, saying Perpetua’s plan would increase the overall footprint of mining operations to a size larger than ever before and expand mining into previously untouched areas just outside the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, a protected area that is home to bears, wolves, wolverines, endangered salmon and a diverse array of wildlife.

“The Stibnite Gold Project is one step closer to restoring an abandoned mine site, providing hundreds of family-wage jobs for Idahoans, producing the only domestic mined source of antimony to protect our national security, and supporting America’s clean energy transition,” Perpetua Resources President and CEO Laurel Sayer said in a written statement. “Perpetua submitted an initial plan of restoration and operations six years ago and our team has worked tirelessly to develop a responsible, modern mining project that can have a positive impact on Idaho and our nation. We have listened to community feedback and the process has made our plan even better.”

However, officials with the Idaho Conservation League cited a fisheries specialist’s report that indicated “a net decrease in quantity and quality of bull trout habitat would occur” despite Preptua Resources’ plans to remove barriers to fish passage and increasing lake habitat.

“The new mine plan poses an even bigger problem for bull trout than we thought it would. Despite areas of improved access for fish, the new analysis showed that the mine would further degrade habitat for threatened bull trout instead of improving it,” John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League said in a written statement.

“Restoring fish passage is a noble goal, but doesn’t work if mining activities make water temperatures too warm for bull trout to survive and thrive,” Robison added.