IRU and allies file lawsuit to protect Boise River from mining

Idaho Rivers United - Idaho Conservation League - Golden Eagle Audubon Society

Boise, ID – Three Boise-based conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the Forest Service’s decision to allow a mining company to drill underground in the headwaters of the Boise River. 

The Idaho Conservation League, Golden Eagle Audubon Society, and Idaho Rivers United filed the lawsuit in federal court, faulting the Forest Service for approving the CuMo Exploration Project without taking sufficient steps to protect water quality and rare flower habitat.

The five-year drilling project was proposed by American CuMo Mining Corporation (CuMoCo) to evaluate the feasibility of building a large open-pit mine in the headwaters of Grimes Creek, 14 miles north of Idaho City, Idaho. CuMoCo claims the mountainous site in the Boise National Forest is the largest un-mined molybdenum deposit in the world. Exploration is the next step toward the open pit mine. 

Molybdenum prices have fallen to $5.40 per pound. The Thompson Creek molybdenum mine in Idaho has dramatically slowed production and has been forced to lay off much of its workforce as a result.

As approved by the Forest Service, CuMoCo would drill 259 exploratory holes from 1,500 to 3,000 feet underground throughout the 2,885-acre project site. To access the drill areas, CuMoCo would clear forest and build over 10 miles of roads. CuMoCo would also construct 137 drill pads and simultaneously operate up to four drill rigs day and night. 

The Forest Service first approved the CuMo Exploration Project in 2011. But in response to a lawsuit filed by the same conservation groups filing today, a federal judge halted the project in 2012, finding that the Forest Service failed to address water quality threats posed by the company’s extensive drilling plan. The lawsuit filed today challenges the Forest Service’s Sept. 30, 2015 decision to approve the project again, still without adequately protecting against water contamination. 

“My family has owned property near Grimes Creek not far from the project site since 1970,” said Treasure Valley resident Ann Finley. “I have lived there and continue to spend time on our property. I hope others are able to enjoy camping and fishing as I have along Grimes Creek and in our national forest, but large-scale mining exploration here is incompatible with protecting Idaho’s natural heritage.” 

The coalition of conservation groups is represented by attorneys Bryan Hurlbutt, of Advocates for the West, and Roger Flynn, of the Western Mining Action Project. In the lawsuit, the groups ask the court to order the Forest Service to protect against water contamination and the destruction of Sacajawea’s bitterroot habitat before allowing any exploration to proceed.

The following are comments from each of the three plaintiffs:

  • “The project site includes some of the best forest habitat remaining in the Boise Basin,” said Pam Conley with Golden Eagle Audubon Society. “I’ve seen wolf tracks, beaver ponds, and white-headed woodpeckers when visiting the area. The site is home to the world’s largest populations of Sacajawea’s bitterroot, a rare flower found only in the mountains of central Idaho in just a handful of locations.”
  • “The CuMo project is a step backward,” said Kevin Lewis with Idaho Rivers United. “Landowners, private companies, and conservation groups have worked together to restore stretches of Grimes Creek that were damaged by historic mining.  Bull trout have recently been found in the watershed. We don’t want this progress undone.”
  • “In the last year we have seen mining disasters with long term consequences in Colorado’s Animas River from the Gold King Mine, in British Columbia’s Quesnel Lake from the Mount Polley Mine and in Brazil’s Rio Doce from the Samarco Mine,” said John Robison with the Idaho Conservation League. “The Boise River shouldn’t be next.”  

Click here to download a copy of the complaint.

For more information:

John Robison, Idaho Conservation League
208.345.6933 x26 / jrobison@idahoconservation.org

Pam Conley, Golden Eagle Audubon Society
208.869.0337 / pam¬_conley@q.com

Kevin Lewis, Idaho Rivers United
208.343.7481 / kevin@idahorivers.org

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