CuMo mine exploration raises lots of questions for downstream residents

Grimes Creek shouldn’t be a sacrifice zone.
— Ava Isaacson

Approximately 200 people attended a meeting at Payette Brewing in Boise to learn more about the CuMo Project and potential impacts from mine exploration and development. The meeting was hosted by local and statewide conservation groups.

A Canadian mining company, American CuMo, is moving forward with a mining exploration project in the headwaters of the Boise River. The company hopes to construct more than 10 miles of new roads and clear 137 drill pads near Grimes Creek. The company hopes that the 2,885-acre exploration project will lead to development of one of the largest open-pit molybdenum mines in the world. 

John Robison with the Idaho Conservation League gave an overview of the permitting process and highlighted some of the questions that community members should be asking.

“Mining put Idaho on the map but a lot of operations made a big mess and moved on,” Robison said. “Just exploration can have a big impact. Homeowners and recreationists need to ask questions about increased dust, traffic and noise.”

Ava Isaacson, Conservation Associate with Idaho Rivers United, gave an overview of the importance of the Boise River for drinking water, irrigation, local businesses, and fish and wildlife habitat.

“The Canadian mining company is telling their investors how heavily disturbed the Grimes Creek basin is from historic logging and mining,” Isaacson said. “But Grimes Creek shouldn’t be a sacrifice zone. And the high country where the drilling is proposed still supports native trout. Folks who know it care about it.”

Rich Rusnak, a volunteer with the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club, showed photographs from a game camera he had set up in the project area.

“I worked with a trapper who gave me some lure or attractant,” Rusnak said. “It is amazingly stinky and you really want to make sure you don’t spill any in your backpack. We didn’t find any lynx or wolverine, but we got elk, bobcat, black bear, snowshoe hare, fox and coyotes. Oh, and a shot of the wildfire before it toasted our camera.”

“The Pioneer Fire altered thousands of acres of habitat,” said Sean Finn with Golden Eagle Audubon Society. “Our members are very concerned about how that will affect northern goshawks, great gray owls and scores of other bird species that need live standing forest to breed. Unburned forest - even if marginally suitable - becomes critical to support populations while burned areas recover. We think the Forest Service needs to resurvey to determine if goshawks or owls moved into he project area before and new roads are laid out.”

Robison closed with a discussion about strategic minerals.

“Even if we could somehow resolve the potential water pollution and public health issues, why would we let a Canadian mining company with a bunch of foreign investors from other countries take our resources – for free – just so we can buy it back from them?” he asked.

Project proponents and skeptics spoke respectfully and thoughtfully with each other after the program. Attendees were encouraged to submit scoping comments on the exploration drilling project and to comment on the draft Environmental Assessment when it becomes available later this year.