Digging up Misinformation: Fact from Fiction on the Stibnite Gold Project

Communications, Community, Environment, News, River |

Digging up Misinformation: Fact from Fiction on the Stibnite Gold Project

For the last decade, Midas Gold Idaho has worked hard to establish ourselves as resource ready to address legacy problems that are degrading water quality and habitat in the historic Stibnite Mining District. Our project design will protect the land and river for generations to come.

Our proposed Stibnite Gold Project is specifically designed to utilize responsible modern mining to rewrite the area’s legacy, but misinformation is too often allowed to seep into the narrative and threaten the public’s opportunity for an educated and informed opinion on our project.

That is why we want to set the record straight on a recently released video and the webiste site, “Dig for Truth.” The public deserves a straightforward, evidence-based analysis to push back on those looking to misrepresent the facts and spread unsubstantiated fear about the Stibnite Gold Project.

While the video and its observations borders on propaganda, below you will find a breakdown of just some of the claims and the real facts that will hopefully hold them accountable to the truth.

Let’s Dig In:

Before we do, please know we would love to hear from you and are more than willing to walk you through the details of our proposed plan. Please email community@midasgoldinc.com to set time with our staff.

 

 

 “…So many impacts left on the ground from 100 years of mining…”

 

True. We can agree the area needs attention.

Most of the mining that occurred at Stibnite that impacted water quality and fish populations was largely unregulated and came with no financial protections. Today, mining is perhaps the most regulated industry in the country and, in addition to meeting the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and dozens of other state and federal regulations, we will have to put considerable funds aside to guarantee reclamation happens.

It is important to also note that Midas Gold has never mined at Stibnite. In 2016, we offered federal regulators our plan to use responsible mining and restoration to repair the site. We now await permission from regulators to finally rewrite the legacies at Stibnite.

Midas Gold represents the only viable means to change this region’s legacy. We’ve studied the Stibnite Mining District for the last ten years and spent tens of millions of dollars on scientific studies, working with engineering and restoration experts to develop a comprehensive plan to address water quality and fish passage concerns. Our team includes highly experienced and trusted experts in fish biology, stream restoration, mine engineering, geochemistry, water modeling, habitat restoration and more.

 

 

“…many of them saying the same as Stibnite or Midas Gold where they will use mining to clean up the area and it has just never been true”

 

Not true.

The companies that mined at Stibnite in the 1930s, 40s and 50s were largely focused on producing tungsten and antimony needed for WWII. The ethos, the goals and the regulatory environment were very different at that time.

Modern mining reclamation standards have never been more stringent than they are today, checks and balances have been put in place to ensure mining companies take care of the land. In fact, a 2011 investigation the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management reported to Senator Lisa Murkowski that out of 3,344 mining plans of operations approved by both agencies since 1990, none of the 3,344 federal approvals required the EPA to place any of these approvals on the highest priority environmental clean-up sites. (Baird and DeLong, 2016)

For the Stibnite Gold Project, the reclamation elements written into our plan are not optional and, once the plan is approved, we will be required reclaim the Stibnite site and financial assurances (bonding) will be in place before mining begins to guarantee the work is completed.

 

 

“We have to be able to leave this landscape in a better way than we got it”

 

True. But, fails to mention that we share the same philosophy.

Today, the water quality and habitat at Stibnite are degraded.  Arsenic levels in groundwater are elevated across the site and hundreds of times above the drinking water standards in several locations directly below decades old mine waste rock and a USFS repository. Under strict regulatory review, approval and oversight, private industry can provide the needed resources and solutions to address problems that will otherwise remain

The restoration plan for our project is forecast to result in an overall uplift in stream function, including stream access, water quality, and habitat. For example, operational practices and reclamation activities are predicted to result in an improvement in downstream surface water quality with a decrease in arsenic and antimony levels relative to current baseline conditions. Additionally, anadromous fish will once again be able to naturally access miles of traditional habitat that they have not been able to reach for more than 80 years.

Midas Gold also has significantly more protective regulatory requirements and a different ethos than mining operators who have explored and developed Stibnite in the past. We developed our project with the end in mind and developed a project that is as much about reclamation as it is mining.

 

“…will impact over 3 square miles of land in this area…”

 

True, and…

We have worked hard to contain as much of the project as possible within areas previously disturbed by mining or mining-related activity. As a result, more than 40% of the proposed project footprint has already been impacted by decades of mining activity.

The project footprint of the Stibnite Gold Project is 1,991 acres which is approximately just 7 percent of our total claim package. Additionally, 90 percent of the mineral reserves Midas Gold plans on mining are on Midas Gold’s private land.

As we move forward with our project, we will continue to look for practical ways to minimize the footprint of our project. Through the NEPA process, we’ve already identified ways to further refine the project and make the footprint smaller.

 

“…Midas Gold will literally move a mountain and change the course of a river.”

 

Not True.

Midas Gold will not move any mountains to operate this project. Our plan re-mines and makes larger two existing open pit mines and develops an open pit in the footprint of an old underground mine, mill, smelter and heap leach facility.

We will not change the course of a river. In fact, our plan centers on putting the river back to where it belongs after 80 years of flowing into an abandoned mine pit. Today, the river also flows past millions of tons of abandoned mine tailings and waste rock that degrade water quality. Before we are done mining, we will restore that river passage to a natural gradient and flow after picking up the tailings and removing the waste rock that are currently lining the valley floor and degrading water quality.

In fact, we will invest in repairing fish and water quality concerns at the very beginning of the proposed project.  We will invest tens of millions in a fish passage system to get fish beyond the current blockage at the beginning of the project, not when the project is over.

 

 

“…what it has done to the landscape up there has been a tragedy.”

 

True, and…

We agree the damages to the site from operations over the last century, particularly during emergency war time operations, are extensive. We can’t change what others did in the past, but we can rewrite the legacy of this site through economic reinvestment and responsible industry action. What has happened to the Stibnite Mining District is a tragedy, but what will happen will be a victory.

We are the only party with a plan to address the current water quality and fish migration concerns at site. We have developed our plan so that private investment can provide the solution. Our plan comes backed by the financial assurances to guarantee it happens and some of the strictest government review and oversight in the world.

Again, it is important to clarify that Midas Gold has NEVER conducted mining operations on site. We have studied and collected data for the last decade and invested in sustainability efforts, such as planting more than 55,000 trees in the region, improving road quality to reduce runoff, removed scrap metal and reclaimed 13 acres of disturbed land.

 

 

“…if this mining operation were to continue, then we would go back to as it was before, no fish.”

Not True.

As a result of legacy mining impacts prior to Midas Gold’s proposed project, migratory fish are currently blocked from traditional spawning grounds and rearing habitat in the upper reaches of the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River (EFSFSR) where the water is cooler and suited for spawning and rearing juvenile fish. Our plan prioritizes and invests additional tens of millions of dollars in reconnecting fish to this prime habitat immediately, and then repairs and/or opens up miles of additional spawning and rearing habitat—for perpetuity.

Salmon recovery will take multiple new strategies and actions, it will take all of us working together and we are willing to be a part of that solution.

 

 

“…manage 100 million tons of toxic waste they will generate. Both sites will remain in place after the mine has closed.”

 

Not True.

Waste chemicals will not be stored on site long-term. While stored temporarily on site, they will be held in approved containers and within secondary containment areas. To make sure we are doing things in the safest way possible, all gold ore processing at Stibnite will happen inside an enclosed facility in order to protect the environment. Our building will have containment for 110% the solutions being used.

International Cyanide Management Institute recommends that tailings facilities have cyanide levels at one fifth of the standard of to be protective of wildlife. There will be strict monitoring by the company and regulatory agencies to ensure that remains the case.

Our mining activities must meet the Clean Water Act and receive Idaho regulatory approval on ground and surface water. We won’t discharge process water from our operations. Any water that may be discharged has to be treated to meet regulatory approval before it can be released to the environment.

 

 

“Midas Gold claims… polished in glittery promises based on pure speculation not hard science”

 

Not True.

Science is at the heart of everything we do. Our team at Midas Gold and our consultants include some of the most highly experienced and trusted experts in fish biology, stream restoration, mine engineering, geochemistry, water modeling and habitat restoration.

Over the last decade, we have spent tens of millions of dollars on hard science, not speculation. Our initial proposal submitted in 2016 included well over $20 million in collecting baseline data, evaluating alternative development scenarios and compiling base line reports. The plan was summarized in 486 pages and included 25 baseline reports totaling 21,564 pages. In total, through the permitting process, we have submitted over 46,000 pages of data provided by scientists and technical experts. Through the exhaustive, multi-year permitting process with 11 state and federal agencies, we are working with regulators, scientists and stakeholders to continually refine the proposal.

Much of the reclamation work we have proposed in the Plan of Operations and Restoration is not required by any law or regulations. We have designed the project with restoration and reclamation as primary design standards because it is the right thing to do.

 

 

“A 2013 study of 27 active gold mines found that all 27 experienced at least one pipeline spill or other accidental release…”

 

Not the full picture.

The video cites an anti-mining advocacy piece that does not fairly depict the facts or allow the public to accurately draw conclusions about our proposed project design.

The document cited in the video incorporates many projects designed and permitted decades ago, highlighting incidents dating back nearly 40 years. Furthermore, it does not in any way reflect our design or the best management practices or regulatory environment in place today. It is disappointing that the video frequently misrepresents our project and plans.

Every day, there is no greater priority for Midas Gold Idaho than the safety of people and the environment. We are proud of our commitment to operating in a responsible manner at the site to ensure the well-being of our employees, the community, and the environment we all cherish. This commitment is why, during our ongoing exploration activities, we have gone 88 consecutive months without a reportable spill incident.

We have also taken steps in designing our plans to mitigate the risks of potential accidents. Our plan was built on years and tens of millions of dollars of hard science and data collection, conducted by some of the foremost experts in engineering, water modeling, river and habitat restoration and reviewed by independent experts. For instance, our tailing facility design includes a proven double-lined system incorporating geosynthetic clay laminate that self-seals if there is a puncture or tear. Before tailings go to our storage facility, cyanide is reduced to one-fifth of the level considered to be protective of wildlife.

The “report” also fails to indicate that there is only one project in the entire country permitted after 1990 that has needed federal intervention to do complete reclamation. There has never been an environmental problem at a hard rock mining and milling facility approved by a federal or state agency in the West after 1990 that required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to place that operation on the Superfund National Priorities List (Baird and DeLong, 2016).

To help provide more context, in April of 2015, analysts completed an assessment of the EPA’s National Priority List (NPL). Of the more than 1,100 sites on the NPL, 100 were classified by the EPA as Mining and Milling Sites (MMS). Of those 100, looking specifically at the 55 hardrock projects on the NPL, they fall into the following classifications:

o             49 prior to 1970 (pre-more stringent environmental standards)

o             Five between 1970-1990 (transition phase for the new environmental standards)

o             One post 1990 (Barite Hill in South Carolina: open pit heap leach mine that ceased operation in 1995 with reclamation between 1995 and 1999)

 

 

“Liners leak and they will rip and tear and who knows what environmental disaster we would be setting up for generations to come…”

          

Not True

We are more than happy to sit down with anyone and walk them through the design and industry best practice protections we’ve considered for our proposed tailings facility. However, making broad sweeping statements about our design based on decades old designs does not encourage meaningful dialogue.

We designed a tailings facility that goes beyond current regulatory requirements to safely store both the reprocessed tailings from previous operators at site and those generated by our mining operations.

  • We propose incorporating geosynthetic clay lining in the tailings facility which self-seals if there is a puncture or tear.
  • We will have a double liner system with a secondary geosynthetic double liner for an added layer of protection.
  • Our proposal also takes great care to ensure that the concentration of cyanide in tailings that go into the facility are reduced to a concentration that is one-fifth of what is considered required to be protective of wildlife.
  • The structure of the facility with the proposed buttress is designed to a factor of safety of over 3. To put that in context, the state of Idaho requires a factor of safety of 1.5.
  • Midas will build its tailings storage facility so that 90% of the area is surrounded by mountains that will not, and cannot, fail. The other 10% of the perimeter will be built to Idaho’s 1.5 factor of safety standard and then buttressed with 65 million tons of rock which raises the factor of safety to over 3. (Factor of Safety Blog)
  • We’ve conducted extensive modeling and scientific review of the facility design and are required by regulators to identify and either eliminate or mitigate for risks for everything ranging from earthquakes to low probability weather events.
  • Monitoring wells, regular inspections, ongoing regulatory oversight and reporting requirements will be in place to ensure the system works as planned.
  • Any “run off” must meet regulatory approval and we’ve spent years and millions of dollars on water modeling and geochemistry analysis. We will not directly release process water and all water that is discharged must meet regulatory approval.

 

 

“…in exchange for pennies on the dollar a few jobs and empty promises”

 

Not true.

The project is a $1+ billion in capital investment, that will result in:

  • ~$1 billion initial investment in Idaho
  • ~500 direct jobs, prioritized for Idahoans
  • ~$80,000 average salary
  • ~$300,000 direct annual contribution to property taxes in Idaho
  •  ~$85 Million in direct state corporate income tax and mine license fees
  • ~$150 million in sales transactions in Idaho
  • ~$200 million in direct, indirect and induced state taxes
  • ~$500 million in direct, indirect and induced federal taxes

500 direct jobs at wages that go far beyond the Idaho average salary and will sustain Idaho families are meaningful and not to be dismissed.

 

 

“Gold mining companies are destroyers not restorers”

 

Not True.

Mining companies in the U.S. have completed restoration on nearly 3 million acres of land. https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/fy2019_osmre_budget_justification.pdf

Midas Gold is not your mining prospector from 1800. We are scientists and engineers; we are Idahoans. As individuals and as a company we take restoration very seriously and have a plan and are making the financial commitments to make restoration a reality.