Mining in the Salmon River Watershed

Oct 4, 2017
The Salmon River watershed in Idaho is home to the most important remaining habitat for summer Chinook salmon in the entire Columbia River Basin. This river and its tributaries also support Snake River steelhead, bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout. In addition, the river provides outstanding opportunities for fishermen, campers, hikers and kayakers, and supports communities farther downstream. This important watershed should be a source of clean water for both the wildlife and the communities that depend on it.
In 1994, it was discovered that acid mine drainage had been forming on the embankment at the tailings facility at the Thompson Creek Mine since 1987. Agencies and the mine finally took action in the late 1990s to remove and/or bury acid-forming sands on the site. This pollution will last in perpetuity. The mining company is currently collecting this discharge and treating it, but no money has been set aside to continue water quality treatments after the mine closes.
On the flight we also saw the Stibnite Mine, which, according to the Forest Service and mining companies, has been successfully reclaimed. However, some sections of the Salmon River such as the East Fork of the South Fork at Stibnite are still recovering from these mining activities, which completely wiped out salmon and steelhead runs. The Nez Perce and taxpayers have invested large sums of money on fish restoration and research in this part of the river and Stibnite Mining Area. A mining company has proposed reopening the two existing pits at Stibnite along with a third new pit for a 20-year gold mining project. Our conservation partners are working to reduce surface disturbance and increase watershed restoration for any future approved mining projects.
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