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Judge Stops Mining Company Drilling In Boise County ... Again

screengrab cumoco.com
CuMo's website calls its Boise National Forest site the largest unmined molybdenum deposit in the world. This graph compares its estimated size to other large open pit mines, including Idaho's Thompson Creek mine.

A federal judge has stopped exploratory drilling in the Boise National Forest near Idaho City that could lead to a large open pit mine. Judge Edward Lodge says the Forest Service did not consider all the environmental impacts before granting a Canadian company permission to drill. Lodge made a similar decision in 2012.

At that time, Lodge said the Forest Service did not thoroughly consider the CuMo company's potential impact on water before giving the project the go-ahead. The exploration is taking place in an area near streams that feed the Boise River. Last year, Lodge said that particular concern had been addressed and OKed drilling. Now, Lodge says the federal agency did not look carefully enough at a rare wildflower.

John Robison with the Idaho Conservation League says Sacajawea’s Bitterroot is an important plant, but his group’s opposition to the project is still about the river.

“Everyone needs to get more engaged and learn how to protect the Boise River when this proposal comes around again,” Robison says.

And it will come around again. The ICL and other environmental groups are cheering the judge’s decision ,but Robison sees it is a temporary victory. He’s says the groups will continue to fight the project indefinitely.

“We are expecting the mining company to come back at some point,” Robison says. “However, I think it’s important for them to realize that the downstream community cares about the entire watershed.”

CuMo mining president Shaun Dykes says after this week's setback, the delay shouldn't be nearly as long as the three-year wait the last time the judge halted drilling. He says his company has already done the flower study the judge wants, and it should be ready to hand in soon.

“We believe the science is backing up everything we say about this being a sustainable project,” Dykes says. “That’s why we’re going out of our way to do a lot of these studies.”   

Dykes says his company knew it would face years of legal challenges when it started to think about building one of the world’s largest open pit molybdenum mines so close to Boise. He says his company is in it for the long haul.  

“It does drag on, because the average time it takes to put a mine from first boots on the ground to production, is getting on close to 20 years now,” Dykes says. “So you’ve got to have a steady, calm hand. But that’s just part of the job.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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