Reporter’s Notebook: Covering An Emotional Idaho Mine Project
Major lands projects have a way of dividing people, and the proposal to resurrect the gold mine at Stibnite is no exception.
During my reporting on the Stibnite gold project for Wanna Know Idaho, I spoke to a number of people who felt passionately that this was, or wasn’t, the right thing for the region.
This story took me to three public hearings, a geologist’s home, and a narrow sliver of beach on the Salmon River where a local resident told me his concerns about a large-scale mine upstream.
Wanna Know Idaho is a podcast that lets listeners ask a Boise State Public Radio reporter to dig into any question about the Gem State. A listener question on Stibnite received more votes for airtime than any other question in the program’s history. The question was largely voted for by people in the anti-mine camp.
I often encounter this recurring misperception about journalistic work: People sometimes feel that if reporters uncover the right facts, figures, or case studies -- some compass of fair and just decision-making will swing in a clear direction.
That’s seldom the case.
For me, a successful story is one that builds mutual understanding between people on either side of an issue.
Getting this story right weighed on me heavily during the weeks I was pulling it together. As a resident of Cascade, I don’t get to hide from the pro-mine people or the anti-mine people. I see them at preschool drop-off, at book club, at the grocery store and the post office. It was utterly important to cover the story fairly to both.
In this installment of Wanna Know Idaho we aimed to demonstrate the value of a well-paying job in this region, while also giving voice to those who feel like a mine isn’t compatible with an area that’s increasingly defining itself by tourism opportunities.
Four-and-a-half-minutes of airtime barely does justice to a story of this magnitude. But I feel confident we gave airtime to the big conflicts here -- uncertainty over whether a mining company can simultaneously do extraction and restoration, and whether a fragile watershed can withstand further disturbance.
I’m sharing a small bank of resources that were useful to me while reporting this story. I hope they’ll be useful to anyone looking to learn more about the Stibnite gold project.
Public documents related to Stibnite filed throughout the NEPA process can be found here. Two good starting points are:
The City of McCall hosted three town-hall style meetings with experts on all sides of the proposed Stibnite gold project. Audio from all three events is on the city’s website here.
RESOURCES FROM THE CONSERVATION COMMUNITY
This two-page flier from American Rivers has some useful background on the effect mining has had on watershed health and fisheries on the Salmon River.
Nez Perce declaration of opposition to Stibnite.
A PowerPoint presentation from Nez Perce fisheries watershed division head Emmit Taylor detailing the tribe’s opposition to the project.
Here's the Idaho Rivers United page on Stibnite.
RESOURCES FROM MIDAS GOLD
From permitting to extraction, restoration to monitoring -- all of Midas Gold’s plans are online here.
Of particular interest is an economic study released by the mining company in 2016. An updated version is expected to be made public shortly.
OTHER NOTABLE MEDIA COVERAGE
“Midas Gold proposes sustainable project in Stibnite mining district,” Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio, 29 October 2018.
“‘Pioneering’ plan for scarred Idaho tract may rock industry,” E&E News, 25 October 2018.
“Midas Gold pitches cleanup via capitalism for Stibnite,” Idaho Press, 6 October 2018
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