Conservation Groups Dig at CuMo Mining Exploration as Comment Period Deadline Looms 

The deadline for comments is Monday, Jan. 8.

John Robison's head nearly touched the ceiling at the Payette Brewing Taproom Jan. 3, as he stood on a chair, making arguments against allowing mineral exploration along Grimes Creek in the Boise National Forest, which could lead to the excavation of a massive open-pit mine. In Robison's view, it's a prospect people in the Treasure Valley shouldn't risk.

"It's not about making a big mess and moving on," Robsion, the public lands director of the Idaho Conservation League, said to the packed beer hall. "It's about developing a community."

The exploration in question would be conducted by the Idaho CuMo Mining Corporation, and would require building up to 10.2 miles of temporary roads in the watershed southeast of Garden Valley. Plus, CuMo would install up to 137 drilling pads and create 259 drill holes in order to analyze what it believes is a massive deposit of molybdenum, copper and silver in the area.

The end result could be an open pit mine at the headwaters of the Boise River, which critics say could have a profound impact on the wildlife, drinking water and recreation.

click to enlarge - John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League speaking against the CuMo Mining exploration project. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League speaking against the CuMo Mining exploration project.
The Idaho Conservation League, the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club, Golden Eagle Audubon Society and other conservation organizations have put up a legal fight against exploration, arguing even the low-footprint drill pads could cause damage to the ecosystem—a case bolstered by the Pioneer Fire, which ravaged the Boise National Forest in 2016, making it even more vulnerable.

"Because of the wildfires, we think circumstances have changed," Robison said.

As a result, new environmental assessments have been ordered and a comment period on the exploration project opened. The deadline for comments, which can be submitted online, is Monday, Jan. 8.

CuMo representatives have rebutted conservationists' critiques, saying there is no guarantee mineral exploration would lead to a mining project, and exploration itself would have little environmental impact. The benefits of mining, they said, would be a boost to employment in Boise County and the extraction of industrially valuable resources. ICMC Executive Vice President of Operations Phil Brady said people don't choose where those resources develop—nature does.

"Mineralization occurs where it occurs," he said. "It is where it is."

Noelle Laury, a communications specialist working with CuMo, said the question isn't whether mining along Grimes Creek is a good or bad idea, but how such an operation could work without unduly damaging the environment.

"We need to start looking at how to do it best," she said.
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