A Canadian mining company has proposed reopening the two existing pits at the Stibnite gold mine, along with a third new pit for a 20-year gold mining project. With this project, mountains will be moved, valleys will be filled in, streams will be relocated, and two new toxic lakes will be dammed up in this ecosystem. The lasting impact of this project will be real and substantial; hundreds of acres of toxic mine tailings, waste rock storage, and toxic tailings ponds.
The current Stibnite Mine, 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. Nez Perce Tribal members continue to access areas within and adjacent to the Stibnite site to exercise treaty rights, and for cultural and ceremonial purposes. The Tribe also commits millions of dollars in resources to address the negative impacts of mining after companies disappeared and left Nez Perce and Idaho citizens to foot the bill for clean-up. Steady progress has been made in improving the water quality and habitat of streams that were contaminated by past gold mining activity. But this new mining proposal, which would be one of the largest gold mines in the country, threatens the area today.
The Forest Service initially released a Draft EIS in 2020 for the mining proposal, but public comments on the plan showed that Idahoans and others were concerned that the proposal did not fully and accurately describe the environmental impacts of this project. After the public comment period closed, the mining company released an alternative plan, with the goal of reducing potential environmental impacts of the project. While the new plan takes active steps to reduce the overall project footprint and addresses some specific environmental concerns, the plan still poses serious environmental risk. To analyze this new alternative, the Forest Service will release a Supplemental EIS where the public can comment in March 2022.