All Mine 

Exploratory drilling in the Boise National Forest could lead to one of the largest pit mines in North America

Ask about mining at Harley's Pub in Idaho City, and you'll get a lot of opinions but not a lot of names.

Canada-based CuMo Mining Corporation plans to begin exploratory drilling in the Grimes Creek area, about 14 miles north of Idaho City. While some see the potential, others see only peril. They tell stories of employer retaliation, rumors spreading and spending 30 minutes waiting to be seated in near-empty restaurants—but don't want their opinions to haunt them.

The bartender at Harley's, who asked that his name be withheld, first said he didn't care about CuMo's plans for 147 drill pads and up to 259 drill holes on 2,900 acres of the Boise National Forest. The more he talked, though, the more open he became about his fear an influx of people would tax the town's infrastructure. He was also wary of the short-term nature of mining and the mess it could leave behind. He said he hates it when people who don't live in Idaho City make decisions that drastically affect the small town. It's a hermit's heaven, and people move there to be left alone.

If CuMo finds what it's looking for, little will be left alone in the sleepy town of fewer than 500 people. On its website, CuMo states the Grimes Creek area could have one of the largest deposits of molybdenum, copper and silver on the continent, worth $32.8 billion. CuMo is talking about excavating 150,000 tons per day. If all goes according to plan, the Boise National Forest could host one of the biggest open pit mines in North America.

"I don't care what they do," said one woman, leaning her elbows on the bar, "but if you're waiting for 1,000 jobs to come to Boise County, don't hold your breath. This is an economically depressed area, a boom or bust society. You either work for the government, you starve to death as a shop owner on Main Street or you leave."

Outside the small mountain community, disagreement over the possible mine is strong. Set against the promise of jobs and an economic boost, the environmental consequences loom large. The drilling and possible mine site would be centered on the headwaters of the Boise River, which provides up to 25 percent of Boise's drinking water. Regardless, drilling is slated to start as soon as April 2016.

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