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article imageBC mining company to write its own environmental report in U.S.

By Karen Graham     Dec 15, 2019 in Environment
New documents reveal that the Trump administration has let a mining company take on a major role in writing the environmental report that is key to getting its Idaho gold mine project government approval.
The conservation group, Earthworks, obtained the documents that reveal that British Columbia-based Midas Gold is being allowed to write a key environmental report on its proposed open-pit gold mines in central Idaho, but only after the Trump administration became involved, according to the Idaho Statesman.
The documents show the efforts of the mining company at lobbying after initially being rebuffed by the U.S. Forest Service. In February 2018, internal documents show the agency denied Midas Gold's request to participate as a non-federal representative in writing the assessment because the massive project would likely harm protected fish, reports CTV News Canada.
The papers include information on meetings between Midas Gold and President Trump's deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's natural resources and environment. The documents also show that the U.S. Forest Service's efforts to stop the process were thwarted.
And by October 2018, Midas Gold was not only participating but had suddenly taken over the lead in writing the key document. Mckinsey Lyon, vice-president of external affairs for Midas Gold, said that it's"t's normal to be a part of the assessment," calling the process "collaborative" with federal and state officials, according to The Hill.
A map showing the location of the Stibnite Gold Project.
A map showing the location of the Stibnite Gold Project.
"We will prepare the draft assessment from that collaborative process," Lyon said. "We are really looking at this to make the process more inclusive and transparent in getting all the voices and input at the table."
“I think it's particularly inappropriate for a mining company to be analyzing their own project,” Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks said this week. She obtained the documents as part of a public records request.
Midas Gold's Stibnite Gold Project
The Stibnite district in Idaho has a rich history. For over 100 years, minerals, including gold, silver, antimony, and tungsten have been mined by several mining companies and was critical to the U.S. war effort in the 1940s and 1950s. Mining activity ceased in 1997, followed by a massive restoration effort - with Idaho taxpayers covering $4 million worth of habitat cleanup to restore land left in poor condition by past mining activity in the area.
To be clear, Midas Gold is looking to mine the area in question again and make a great deal of money. The company claims there are over 4 million ounces (113 million grams) of gold and more than 100 million pounds of antimony at the site.
The company plans on additional mining in the two open pits already there and to create a third open pit. Doing so would double the size of the disturbed area and eliminate some previous reclamation work. They say they will restore "much of the area" when they finish mining.
Midas also says mining at the site will directly create an average of 500 jobs for up to 25 years. However, according to the project website, "To ensure the Stibnite Gold Project benefits the environment and the community, and before any mining can begin, we will spend years planning, consulting the community and working with state and federal regulators."
According to CTV News, John Freemuth, an expert on U.S. land policies at Boise State University, says having a company get the OK to write its own biological assessment is something he's never heard of before.
Freemuth has this to say if the mining project is approved - A lingering question will always cloud the project. Did land and wildlife managers or political appointees make the final decision?
More about Midas Gold, us forest service, Idaho, Stibnite Mine, environmental assessment
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