About 120 people staged a protest in McCall over the holiday weekend with the message that re-opening the Stibnite mine could cause irreparable harm to the Salmon River watershed.
Alice Anderson of McCall was one of several area residents who attended the rally to voice skepticism about Midas Gold's plan to restore the Stibnite mine while actively mining it.
"I want to be sure open-pit mining doesn't destroy the South Fork of the Salmon River," Anderson said. "I think it really needs to be investigated thoroughly before any decisions are made."
The site has been active, on and off, for more than a century. But a legacy of mining has left the Salmon River largely devoid of its namesake fish.
Three species of fish in the South Fork watershed are protected under the Endangered Species Act - bull trout, Chinook salmon and steelhead.
Midas Gold says it plans to clean up residual pollution from past mining activity.
Part of the plan would temporarily reroute part of the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon using what the mining company says is a fish-passable tunnel nearly a mile long. Regional fisheries biologist Wes Keller called the plan dubious:
“You know, trying to get fish to go into a 0.8-mile long tunnel when it’s never been done … there’s a lot of things that could go wrong here that we really need to be concerned about.”
Midas spokesperson Mckinsey Lyon says river restoration is a major priority for the company, and they have the financial wherewithal to make it happen.
“Private industry is really the only viable opportunity to get back up there and fix the legacy at hand," Lyon said. "And truthfully, mining should be the one to go do it.”
A draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal is expected in early 2019, with a decision in spring of 2020. Scoping documents for the project are available online at the Payette National Forest website.
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