The Star-News: The Little People will have their say on Midas Gold proposal

Our work is inspired daily by the love and passion our members have for Idaho and her rivers. Our friend, Earl Dodds, has written a wonderful article, published by The Star-News, which so eloquently expresses the power of an individual, especially those who fight to protect what they love. Earl served as the Big Creek District Ranger on the Payette National Forest for more than 25 years.

To learn more about the proposed Stibnite project visit our information page here.

We also encourage you to read Earl’s guest article from last year here.


Reprinted with permission from The Star-News.

The Little People will have their say on Midas Gold proposal

BY EARL DODDS

View Point Article for The Star-News

The Little People of Idaho are at it again opposing another half -baked scheme that would drastically detract from the God-given features that make Idaho so attractive and a great place to live.  This time it is a huge gold mine in the Salmon River country.

But first, let’s talk about the Little People.

These are a group of ordinary everyday Idahoans from all walks of life and education levels. They are common folks, not elites in the community, a few of whom you probably encounter on a daily basis.  They are all unpaid volunteers, most without a great deal of personal money, and only a few with incomes larger than 5 figures.  They all have one thing in common-a love for the land and a desire to keep Idaho, Idaho.

The Little People are somewhat loosely organized, but in spite of this they have been highly effective in helping achieve a couple of remarkable environmental victories in recent years in the face of fierce opposition.  Do you recall the” Big Oil” plans for transporting over-sized oil refining equipment from its point of manufacture in South Korea to the tar-sands in Alberta?  This would have involved crossing Idaho from the Port of Lewiston on the west side to Lolo Pass on the east side by means of State Highway12.  The huge pieces of refining equipment transported on special extra long trailers and pulled by over-sized trucks make what is known in trucking and highway circles as a  “megaload”.  These are so large that they disrupt traffic and tend to dominate the highway.  If not stopped, megaloads would have transformed Highway 12 from a road providing a leisurely recreational experience paralleling two of America’s most scenic rivers into an industrial thoroughfare.

The Little People played a big part in the coalition put together in opposition to the megaload proposal. Other members of the coalition were the Nez Perce Tribe, Linwood and Borg Laughy, (landowners along Highway 12), two distinguished authors (Rick Bass and David James Duncan) and the two Idaho environmental groups, (Idaho Rivers United and Advocates for the West. )  The coalition crossed swords with Big Oil with all its money and high powered lawyers and eventually brought about cancellation of the megaload proposal.

And they did much the same thing with the Lochsa land exchange-a scheme concocted by an individual with a reputation for shady real estate dealings.  This was a proposal to trade a tract of high value national forest lands with high recreational values and with the potential for being subdivided for residential lots, for a tract of privately owned land in a remote area that had been extensively cut over in the past.

Senator Risch held a public hearing on this issue in Grangeville, and the Little People turned out in mass in opposition to the proposal.  They thought that it was a bad deal for the public, and they again played a big part in having the Lochsa land exchange proposal canceled.

Now let’s take a look at a current big environmental issue in Idaho-the Stibnite Gold Mine proposal by the Midas Gold Corporation of Vancouver, Canada.

As this is a proposal for a mine on federal lands, it falls under the auspices of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law.  This law gives the mining industry the highest priority for use of such land.  The land managing agencies do not have the authority to say no to a mining proposal of the nature of the Stibnite Gold Mine.

However, this project is being addressed under provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with the Forest Service as the lead agency with responsibility for preparation of the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).   We are currently well into this process, and are awaiting release of the Draft EIS scheduled for late 2019.  At that time the public will be given an opportunity to comment on the project.

It is not the purpose of this write-up to attempt to pre-judge the Draft EIS and the many actions that must be covered in detail in the Draft EIS as at this time a lot of this would be little more than guesswork.  However, we do know that Midas’s Plan of Restoration and Operation that is being used in the NEPA process calls for such major items of environmental concern as: three open pits, two of which will not be backfilled, a 400 ft + tailing dam –higher than any building in Idaho—constructed of sand and waste rock, not concrete, and the mining of sulfide-ores that has high probability of creating water quality problems in the runoff downstream from the mine in a tributary to S. Fk. of the Salmon River and of killing fish.

The water quality issue might well turn out to be our best tool for stopping this mine as it takes place off site, it involves killing fish, and it is certainly not authorized by the antiquated 1872 Mining Law. Idahoans love their salmon and steelhead and are not likely to support mining that will have a negative impact on and possibly even extinction of this resource.  Salmon and steelhead are one of the things that make Idaho-Idaho.

Earl Dodd