BOISE (CN) – Federal prosecutors say a man has been operating an illegal mine in a National Forest for 4 years, with “mechanized earthmoving equipment.” They say he’s polluted wetlands and a tributary of an “important fishery,” and want him to stop.
The United States sued Roirdon Doremus in Federal Court. It claims that Doremus admitted he’s been mining in the Nez Perce National Forest for 4 years, without a permit, and “returned to the mining site in 2011 and continues to conduct unauthorized mining operations.”
The Forest Service inspected his illegal mine four times in 2010, in May, June, July and October, and “found excavation with mechanized earthmoving equipment ongoing and resulting in significant resource damage. Specifically, several trenches, roads and a pit were excavated and several trees uprooted. The toe of a hill slope was excavated, destabilizing the slope, resulting in ongoing mass movement of the entire slope.
“The excavated material spoils pile and ‘run-out’ area from the slope extend approximately 100 feet from an unnamed tributary of Steckner Creek. A wetland area near a tributary of Steckner Creek was filled with material excavated from the hill slope. Turbid water had seeped from the spoils pile and flowed down an old road bed to a wet area adjacent to the Steckner Creek tributary.”
The tributary flows to Steckner Creek, which flows into the Red River, which is “an important fishery containing steelhead, spring Chinook salmon and bull trout species listed under the Endangered Species Act. It is likely that bull trout and juvenile spring Chinook salmon use Steckner Creek intermittently and that steelhead move into Steckner Creek in the spring and early summer from the Red River. Ground disturbing activities impacting Steckner Creek could affect the Red River with sediment routed downstream with resulting changes in stream temperature affecting fisheries in both Steckner Creek and the Red River,” according to the complaint.
The Forest Service says it found “a number of pieces of equipment at the site, including an International 125 bulldozer/backhoe, a trammel, a pickup camper shell, 17 pieces of scrap metal weighing in excess of 30 tons including a ball mill in disrepair, and a 55 gallon barrel of an unknown liquid.”
Doremus keeps mining although “In a signed statement filed on June 27, 2011, in a related case in this district, defendant declared, ‘I am currently pursuing my mining operation without the benefit of an operating plan for the fourth year,'” the complaint states.
The Forest Service wants him out of there, with all of his equipment. It estimates restoration of his mine will cost more than $59,000.
The Forest Service does not explain, in its 13-page complaint, why it let him return to work his mine this year after it had inspected it four times in 2010. But it says that when he did get around to talking to it, Doremus said “that there may be 30,000 trees on his 20-acre mining claim which he stated he needs ‘out of my way.'”
The Forest Service doesn’t mention what he’s mining there, either. Silver, gold and copper have been found in the region.