Release: Midas Gold’s Plan to Address Previous Water Contamination in Stibnite Mining District

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Release: Midas Gold’s Plan to Address Previous Water Contamination in Stibnite Mining District

Midas Gold has been advised the Nez Perce Tribe intends to initiate legal action against the company and its subsidiaries over water quality impacts related to historical mining activity undertaken prior to Midas Gold’s involvement in the site.

Water quality in the historical Stibnite Mining District has been impacted by more than a century of mining activity, most of which took place before modern environmental regulations existed. In 2016, Midas Gold Idaho, Inc., an Idaho-based mining company that has never operated in the district, submitted a Plan of Restoration and Operations to improve water quality and fix the long-standing environmental issues facing the site as part of its proposed Stibnite Gold Project. Despite this proposal, the Nez Perce Tribe recently announced its intent to sue Midas Gold over its concerns of high concentrations of arsenic and other contaminants in the water at the site.

“We have long shared the Nez Perce Tribe’s concerns over water quality in the Stibnite Mining District and we are well aware of the site’s historically degraded water quality,” said Laurel Sayer, CEO of Midas Gold Idaho. “Filing a lawsuit will not fix the problem. Instead, the site needs to be cleaned up, a point on which we are certain the Tribe can agree with.”

Midas Gold did not cause the current water quality issues at the site. Midas Gold has never conducted any mining operations at site and therefore has no control or responsibility for any pollutant discharges. The company’s actions have been limited to studying current conditions in the district, evaluating the optimal solutions for remediation and restoration and presenting those solutions to the regulators responsible for the site.

The Stibnite Mining District is a highly mineralized area and there are over three million tons of tailings from the World War II era laying unconstrained in the Meadow Creek valley, capped by an additional seven million tons of spent heap leach ore, and numerous other open pits and waste rock dumps across the site. It is therefore not unexpected to see elevated levels of metals in ground and surface water and it is likely that elevated levels of arsenic and antimony have been a problem for decades.

Water quality sampling undertaken by Midas Gold as part of its characterization of the site showed very high arsenic and antimony levels, far beyond what is considered acceptable for drinking water or aquatic life standards. One monitoring station, which is adjacent to the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River and downslope from a historic waste dump and hazardous waste repository installed by the US Forest Service (USFS), measured arsenic at more than 700 times higher than the drinking water standard. The company has regularly submitted this and other water quality information to the USFS and state and federal environmental regulators as a part of Midas Gold’s ongoing obligation to report data to the agencies.

Midas Gold has routinely been meeting with environmental regulators on the issue of the site’s water quality. More recently, the company began working closely with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to gain permission to take action and learn more about the specific causes of degraded water quality. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”), Midas Gold is not legally responsible for legacy impacts at site caused by previous mining companies. However, the proposed Stibnite Gold Project, as set out in the company’s Plan of Restoration and Operations submitted to regulators in 2016, is designed to resolve many problems facing site – including reconnecting fish to their native spawning grounds, fixing the largest source of sedimentation in the river and removing tailings and waste that degrade water quality. With the levels of arsenic and antimony being detected at elevated levels, Midas Gold believes it is important to work directly with regulators to address the causes of water contamination.

Midas Gold has been evaluating the region as a potential opportunity for redevelopment since 2009 and, in 2016, presented the Plan of Restoration and Operations to the USFS. The plan was designed to bring economic investment and environmental restoration to a mining district that suffers from many legacy impacts.

“Private industry is the partner regulators and local communities need to bring solutions to the Stibnite Mining District,” said Sayer. “Over the past several years, our team of engineers, consultants and experts have undertaken a wide-ranging characterization of the current issues at the site in order to develop a comprehensive plan to profitably and responsibly use mining to address the contamination and legacy issues. A lawsuit is counterproductive to a solution.”

Midas Gold has engaged with and tried to work with the Nez Perce Tribe for the last several years. The Tribe’s threat to sue the company does not improve the water quality at the site, but Midas Gold hopes it will raise awareness of the current issues at Stibnite and importance of addressing environmental degradation in the area.

Media requests should be directed to natalie@foresightpublicaffairs.com.