Judge Rules Forest Service Skirted Environmental Analysis in Approving CuMo Mine Project 

click to enlarge RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson

A District Court judge has ruled the U.S. Forest Service skirted environmental analysis standards when it approved exploratory drilling by a Canadian mining company in the Boise National Forest.

In January, three environmental groups—the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United and Golden Eagle Audubon Society—sued the Forest Service, alleging the agency failed to establish baseline environmental standards for the Grimes Creek watershed in the Boise National Forest before approving an exploratory drilling operation in the area by CuMo Mining Company. 

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge agreed. In his ruling, handed down July 11, Lodge wrote the Forest Service analyses of the area were nearly complete—the exception being an appropriate analysis of the habitat for the Sacajawea's bitterroot, a rare flower that grows in the watershed and was threatened by the Grimes Fire. 

It was an exception that has stalled CuMo's efforts to drill 137 exploratory holes in the area. CuMo has already performed an extensive survey of the area, and believes the site holds significant reserves of molybdenum and copper, worth as much as $32.8 billion.

Environmental groups have said exploratory drilling could damage the ecosystem in the watershed and worry it could lead to a pit mining operation that would destroy Grimes Creek, which feeds the Boise River.
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