The U.S. Forest Service this week gave American CuMo Mining Corporation the go-ahead to explore for molybdenum, copper and silver between Idaho City and Garden Valley. If CuMo finds enough of the metals, it will seek permission to build a large open pit mine.
Environmental groups have been challenging the project for years. They say the exploration process alone endangers the headwaters of the Boise River, let alone the proposed mine.
CuMo President Shaun Dykes says his company will start exploring as early as next week. That means drilling deep, narrow holes and then analyzing what is then pulled from the ground. But because that particular area of the Boise National Forest is so rugged, the company first has to build roads and what Dykes calls drill pads.
“It’s just a flat spot,” Dykes says. “You know, a drill is about the size of a pickup truck. And so you need to park it on a flat space. [Also] there’s usually a sump, where material that comes up the hole is dumped.”
Dykes says before winter sets in, CuMo will just barely get the project started. It will begin in earnest next April. Over the three years of its exploration permit, the company could build up to 10 miles of road, more than 130 drill pads and drill upwards of 250 holes.
Environmental groups say those activities will damage springs and streams in the Grimes Creek area that feed the Boise River.
Idaho Conservation League public lands director John Robison says the groups opposed to the project are exploring their legal options. Robison thinks the Forest Service has not done its due diligence to protect public water supplies and he thinks a judge might still be persuaded to halt the company’s exploration. That happened in 2012.
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