Nez Perce tribe lawsuit against Pepertua Resources to be resolved in mediation
The Nez Perce and Perpetua Resources have agreed ‘in principle’ to settle a lawsuit alleging pollution by the mining company in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Perpetua, formerly known as Midas Gold, has worked for years to reopen gold and antimony extraction at the Stibnite site near Yellow Pine in Valley County. The mine sits on the headwaters of the east fork south fork Salmon River; the historic territory of the Nez Perce tribe.
The tribe sued in 2019 over pollution it says was affecting its fisheries in the region, and the two sides have been working to resolve the lawsuit Moscow, Idaho-based mediator Barbara Cosens since spring 2021.
Details of the settlement remain confidential until it's signed, but in a statement, Perpetua wrote, “The Parties have made significant progress through mediation and are working toward a final Clean Water Act settlement agreement in the third quarter of 2023 based on the agreed framework.”
A Nez Perce spokeswoman deferred comment to Cosens, who confirmed the framework for an agreement was in place but would not comment further.
The two parties also requested an extension from the court through September 29, 2023, to complete the settlement process. The lawsuit was the only remaining active challenge in federal court against the mine operators.
The Forest Service continues to review Perpetua’s mining plan as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The service, following a series of public meetings and comment periods on the supplemental draft environmental impact statement, most recently identified Perpetua’s ‘mod pro II’ plan as its preferred option for mining operations. A draft final report from the Forest Service is expected this December and a decision of record early next year.
Conservation groups say the mining plan, while updated to address concerns raised during the multi-year planning and review process, still doesn’t go far enough to protect waterways and fish.
This summer, Perpetua says it will continue pre-mining cleanup at the site, processing 300,000 tons of legacy mining waste away from the river. About three dozen workers will complete that work while living on-site and will be the first to live in housing at the mining site of the modern operation.
That work is supervised and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.