Proposed and active mineral exploration, just out of view from the town of Mackay, poses large threats to the community. We flew with media, City of Mackay officials, and conservationists to evaluate the current mining exploration projects and proposed mining to educate City officials and discuss solutions to protecting the region's water quality.
Mackay is no stranger to mining. Our overflight examined historic and proposed mining in the Big Lost Valley near Mackay. We flew the Empire Mine, a historic copper mine that opened in the 1880s, located right outside the town of Mackay. Phoenix Copper, a British company, intends to redevelop the mine to produce copper, zinc, gold, and silver. The proposed open-pit copper heap leach mine would initially operate for 10 years, with high potential for continued operations, and is located incredibly close to the town of Mackay, about 3.5 miles away and 1.5 miles south of the city's Rodeo Grounds. The proposal entails two open pits about 3,000 feet long and 350 feet deep with nearby waste-rock and explosives storage areas, and a lech pad. The Empire Mine could pose a threat to water quality; the Town of Mackay gets their drinking water primarily from the Mackay Spring, located very close to the proposed Empire Mine. Aquatic life and fishing in the Big Lost River could also be impacted depending on the nature of the proposal and the environmental safeguards in place. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality says that previous mining activities at Empire Mine have elevated arsenic levels
in local waterways and created high cancer risks.
Just west of Empire Mine, we flew over the Navarre Creek area and exploration drilling also operated by Phoenix Copper. Phoenix Copper has acquired over 3,500 acres here and is in the early-stage of a gold exploration project. After extensive surface exploration, drilling began in July and has begun to fragment the landscape; 30 pads are expected to be drilled this year.
With the understanding that some minerals are essential to our 21st-century way of life, our partners at Idaho Conservation League are working to protect from harmful, irresponsible mining, and preserve the amazing recreational opportunities, beauty, and wildlife, along with the region's water quality and public health.
Click for geo-referenced photos from the flight. This .kmz file is best viewed in Google Earth