Recently-released documents from the U.S. Forest Service show that, surprisingly, mining company Midas Gold will be taking a lead role in writing its own environmental report. Yep, the one that will ultimately decide if the company’s main project will survive or die.
The report is specifically a study the Forest Service calls a “biological assessment”. The result of the report will determine if Midas Gold would need to spend significant amounts to restore the area in central Idaho it is looking to mine.
If the report returns an amount for restoration that the company could not afford, Midas Gold will have to abandon the project. But that probably won’t happen, right? Because the company practically has full control over what the report will say. Obviously, it is in the company’s best interest to try to minimize the estimations of their environmental impacts in the report.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about the situation, and at the bottom, we suggest one way you can make a difference in stopping Midas Gold from setting a dangerous precedent.
Midas Gold Has its Stibnite Gold Project at Stake
Perhaps the biggest reason for concern at the involvement of Midas Gold on this report is that its project in question will be on land containing endangered species.
Its Stibnite Gold Project would take place in a historic mining district in central Idaho. During the 1990’s, people began to realize the destruction to animal species that prior mining operations had done.
The government has dedicated more than $4 million in taxpayer money since then to fund restoration efforts and habitat cleanup.
Previous mining operations left two pits in the area. Midas Gold is now looking to expand one of them, the Yellow Pine Pit, as it has the larger concentration of gold.
One of the main features of the habitat surrounding these pits is the Salmon River. When mining operations originally created these two pits, the river had to be diverted to a new path.
This prevented the natural movement of many marine species in the river, including migration patterns of salmon. Midas Gold claims that its project will address this issue by actively improving the area.
Claims Made By Midas Gold About Restoring the Area
One of Midas Gold’s most used slogans is “restore the site.” The company claims that its work in the Yellow Pine Pit will allow for the river to return to its original path at completion of their mining.
In order for this to happen, the company would need to enlarge the pit.
Midas Gold also claims to want to restore the habitat in the area. It has set out several additional goals to do so, most of which revolve around waste left behind from historical mining operations. In signage for this new mine, the company says it will:
1: “Reprocess millions of tons of historical tailings.” Tailings include byproducts left over from mining and extracting metals. Examples include finely ground rock particles and chemicals used to purify the metal.
2: “Remove historical heap leach pad remnants.” Heap leach pads are pollution from the heap leach process. In this procedure, ore is placed on a liner and chemicals are added by drip.
3: “Remove potentially contaminated soils.”
4: “Repurpose millions of tons of spent ore.” Spent ore is the material remaining after leaching.
Creating a Second Pit
One of the main dangers to the area is the creation of a second pit. To be called the Hanger Flats Pit, Midas Gold would dig this pit in the surrounding natural habitat.
Midas Gold wants to dig this in Meadow Creek. This areat has been restored using a portion of the $4 million poured into the area.
In addition, Meadow Creek is currently a habitat for the spawning of chinook. It is also a resident habitat for bull trout.
Making the Yellow Pine Pit larger would necessitate creating a temporary path for the branch of the river that runs through the area.
Midas Gold wants to solve this problem by building a 0.8-mile-long tunnel as a new route. According to the company, the tunnel will include features to simulate the natural river habitat, so as to minimally impact the marine life that will swim through it.
However, as the tunnel will not be built if and until work on the pit begins, it is currently impossible to know how well animals will accept this tunnel.
Regardless, there are limitations on man’s ability to recreate the natural environment, so it is unlikely that the company’s recreation of the river will be enough to mitigate any negative effects on animal life.
Midas Gold Introduces Cyanide Spills as a New Risk to Wildlife
Finally, the company will be mining gold, and as such, will have to put the extracted material through purification processes.
It plans to do one of these processes, the cyanide leaching process, on site. This process uses chemicals that would be extremely poisonous to wildlife if spilled or released.
And due to the presence of a river nearby, a spill could lead to death of marine life miles downstream.
The company claims that it will put systems in place to prevent such spills. But large cyanide leaks in mining processes are not as uncommon as they should be.
Large spills have happened as recent as 2018. In that event, operators of the San Dimas Mine accidentally released 200 liters of cyanide into the Piaxtla River in Durango, Mexico.
Several of the species surrounding the Yellow Pine Pit are already protected under the Endangered Species Act, including salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.
A similar spill by Midas Gold would have detrimental effects on these species.
Nothing Preventing a Biased Report
Because of the high-stakes nature of these effects the company’s mining operation could have, an objective, factual, and serious report assessing them is absolutely necessary.
Especially, Midas Gold’s projects have the potential to ruin surrounding areas of operation and decimate wildlife. For this reason, it is imperative that an impact report is written by an outside, unbiased source. At the moment, that’s not happening.
Some believe that because the company claims to want to help the environment, it will be truthful in its report. But there is nothing holding Midas Gold to make the positive impacts it claims to pursue if its project gets approved.
You Can Hold Midas Gold (@MidasIdaho on Twitter) Accountable Today With #StopMidasGold
Companies constantly make claims about wanting to help the environment, and it is difficult to assess whether the intention is true. Midas Gold is no different.
And its involvement in writing its own environmental report completely defeats the purpose of having governmental agencies to regulate the environmental impact of companies.