BOISE (CN) – The U.S. Forest Service approval of round-the-clock exploratory drilling for 5 years at what may become the world’s largest molybdenum mine will contaminate rivers and groundwater with arsenic and harm protected species, and the Forest Service didn’t even require a full environmental impact report on it, environmentalists say.
The Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United and the Golden Eagle Audubon Society say Forest Service at the very least should follow the law before giving the green light to the multibillion-dollar project.
Mosquito Consolidated Gold Mines has its eyes on one of the largest molybdenum deposits in the world. The site, which also contains copper, is on 2,885 acres 14 miles northeast of Idaho City, a town of about 500 that sprang up during Idaho’s gold rush of the mid 1800’s.
The project could bring 1,000 jobs to Boise County, if and when it reaches full blast. where small communities are hard pressed to find local employment, providing in the Exploratory drilling for the so-called CuMo Exploration Project will “include extensive road construction and around-the-clock drilling activities over much of the next five years within habitat for sensitive wildlife species, including wolverine, northern goshawk, and great grey owl, as the applicant Mosquito Gold drills hundreds of exploration holes to evaluate whether it can develop the CuMo site into the world’s largest open pit molybdenum mine,” according to the complaint.
Mosquito is not a defendant; only the Forest Service is.
The Conservation League say the U.S. Forest Service did not prepare or require a full environmental impact statement, as mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act, but approval through a Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact in February.
“The Forest Service has not evaluated how sensitive species in the area may be impacted by the road construction and drilling activities, and even approved the project before necessary wildlife surveys were completed,” the complaint states. “Yet the noise, disturbance, and human presence from the mining exploration may disturb these and other wildlife species, and impair their reproductive success – potential adverse impacts which the Forest Service failed to study, quantify or fully disclose, in violation of NEPA.”
Nor does the Forest Service understand, or inquire, how the drilling could “alter groundwater hydrology and allow groundwater and/or surface water to become contaminated with arsenic and other hazardous substances, again violating NEPA,” the groups say.
The Conservation League says pollutants could contaminate Grimes Creek, which feeds into the Boise River.
They say the project will degrade riparian habitat along Grimes Creek and its tributaries, in violation of the National Forest Management Act and the Forest Service’s own Land and Resource Management Plan.
The Forest Service approved construction of 10.2 miles of new roads, four new stream crossings, 137 drill pads, 259 drill holes, four drill rigs, and settling ponds.
Drilling activity would be noisy and run continuously from April 15 to Dec. 15 for 5 years, drawing an estimated 7,350 one-way vehicle trips to the project area each year.
The Conservation League asks the Federal Court to find the Forest Service a violation of environmental laws, and to reverse the Finding of No Significant Impact.
The environmentalists’ lead attorney is Laurence Lucas.