Fact Checking Recent Claims Regarding the Stibnite Gold Project

Fact Checking Recent Claims Regarding the Stibnite Gold Project

Soon, the U.S. Forest Service will release the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Stibnite Gold Project, giving community members an opportunity to submit feedback on our project. Public feedback is an important part of the permitting process, which is why we want to make sure you have the facts on our project.

A recent editorial in the Star News about our project did not share accurate information. We want to address these inaccuracies with you, so you can make an informed decision on our project.

Claim 1: There is a probability the project will create acid rock drainage.

The site has been mined on and off for a century and acid rock drainage has never occurred.

Simply put, the geochemical composition of the substantial majority of rocks at site, including those that we propose to mine, make acid rock drainage improbable. While the rocks at site have low levels of sulfides, which can generate acid in certain circumstances, they also have significant quantities of carbonate and other minerals that neutralize acid generation potential.

We have gone to great lengths to understand the water quality issues and study the rocks at site. We analyzed 50,000 samples of rock from across the site to get an accurate representation of the rock’s geochemical behavior. All of these samples and multiple years of government approved testing show acid rock drainage is not a concern.  However, high levels of arsenic and antimony in the ground and surface water are a concern for the site and are related to both naturally occurring and man-made sources.

Claim 2: There is risk the mine will pollute the Salmon River with mine waste, sediment and kill fish.

This is misleading.

The author fails to mention, water quality at site is already being threatened by inaction over decades. Every year, tons of sediment dump into the river from Blowout Creek and high levels of arsenic and antimony are leaching into the ground and surface water from millions of tons abandoned tailings and waste rock. These problems were created generations ago and no one has come forward with a plan and the means to fix these issues, until now.

Before operations begin, we will build the solution to stop the largest source of sedimentation in the watershed and, in the first years of operations, we plan to pick up, reprocess and safely store the tailings threatening water quality today, as they have since the 1930s. We will also reconnect salmon to miles of the headwaters of a tributary of the Salmon River they have been blocked from for over 80 years.

Midas Gold takes water quality risks seriously and our project was designed to protect and address water quality concerns at the site. We will use liners, covers, water treatment, sediment control best management practices and remove the legacy features at site that are harming water quality today. This work will address the water quality concerns that exist today.

Claim 3: Midas/Barrick has plans for a tailings dam of compacted crushed rock that is more than 420 feet high. Dams built in this manner have a history of failure. 

False.

First, it is important to point out there is no Midas/Barrick. Barrick Gold is a shareholder in our company.

The type of tailings dam proposed for the Stibnite Gold Project is not comparable in design, function, material, or regulatory standards to decades-old facilities the author references that are in other countries.  In fact, we designed our facility with a ‘belt and suspenders’ approach, using not only the best practice in design and materials, we have also included additional protective measures.

Our tailings storage facility will hold thickened tailings, that are stronger and consolidate to a higher density than conventional tailings. The consolidation water on top of the thickened tailings surface will be recycled back to our ore processing facility, and the water depth would typically be a few tens of feet deep, and nowhere near the full height of the dam.

The tailings storage facility will be 90% surrounded by granite mountains, leaving just ten percent of the perimeter retained by a dam. The dam will be constructed using the downstream construction method (the best approach) with coarse, blasted rock. Blasted rock is structurally one of the best materials for dam building, as the large, angular particles interlock when compacted, which is why such material is used in riprap and flood defenses. This is in sharp contrast to recently-failed facilities that were constructed using fine material and upstream construction methods.

Then, we will buttress the tailings storage facility embankment with 65 million tons of coarse rock, that has the net effect of doubling the geotechnical factor of safety.

Our tailings storage facility will also be composite lined to avoid leakage of water or metals from the facility.

Claim 4: I have never found a case where a tunnel has successfully been used for fish passage. 

The author may not have found a case but we’ve found a handful.

Midas Gold has presented research prepared by independent fisheries experts to the agencies reviewing our project that demonstrates precisely the opposite. There are a number of examples around the world that document fish passage in tunnels of varying lengths, with and without lighting, with and without structures to aid passage, steep and flat, and with or without any design intent to facilitate passage. Anyone interested in hearing more can join one of our upcoming webinars on the topic and hear from the scientists and engineers who evaluated and designed our proposed fish passage system.

It is important to note, the tunnel is a temporary measure until we can fully restore the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River and reconnect fish passage permanently for the first time in 80 years. This restoration is scheduled to begin while we are still mining West End pit.

Claim 5: The terrain around site creates ideal conditions for avalanches and landslides. 

Yes and….

We’ve been studying the site since 2009 and we are well aware of the challenges of the terrain and climate and have been directly impacted by it. We have accounted for these risks in our design and planning for the site. These conditions are precisely why Midas Gold proposed using the Burntlog Route to get to site as it avoids the high avalanche risk areas on the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River.

Claim 6: Hauling hazardous materials on low-standard roads year-round is a safety risk.

Yes and….

We agree this is a risk. That is why we’ve proposed upgrading Burntlog Road and using this route, building our logistics facility offsite and bussing our employees to site. As we will in the future, we presently restrict the time and manner of fuel haulage and implement numerous road-safety policies for our employees to keep everyone on the roads safe. In our track record of over 140 sensitive fuel loads to site we have conducted each one safely, with no spill or injury.  In fact, we recently passed 100 months without a reportable spill by the company.

Claim 7: The everyday traffic of having 500 employees get to site is another safety risk.

This statement is inaccurate and misleading.

We will bus approximately 90 percent of our team to the site. Our employees will work on a two-week-in/two-week-out rotation with about 250 employees on site at a time with rolling rotations throughout the week to spread traffic out. Bottom line, the roads to site will not have anywhere near the traffic of 500 employees driving to and from the site every day.

Claim 8: The area is prone to earthquakes and safety measures should be in place.

Yes and safety measures are in place.

We have planned for earthquakes. Earthquake contingencies are part of the design parameters for all of the facilities on site, including the tailings storage facility. In fact, the tailings facility was designed to withstand a quake with approximately 6 times stronger shaking than the March 2020 6.5 magnitude quake.

Claim 9: Travel by recreationalists is expected to fall near Horsethief Reservoir and Warm Lake because of mining traffic.

False.

It is unclear if there is a scientific basis or study to make this claim other than the author’s belief. But ask any Idahoan and it seems clear that recreation and traffic are growing together today.  According to our traffic studies, traffic in the area has increased at a consistent rate and is expected to increase regardless of a Midas Gold presence in the area.

Claim 10: Midas Gold is writing the biological assessment for the project.

False.

As has been stated numerous times, Midas Gold is not writing the Biological Assessment (BA). The final BA is being written by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Midas Gold is helping prepare the DRAFT biological assessment through an informal consultation process with five federal agencies, and three state agencies.  The USFS has the authority to accept, modify or reject any of the content generated from this process. Ultimately, they will create their own Biological Assessment and share it with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries (the “Services”), where it will be independently reviewed and analyzed. The actual decision document is the Biological Opinion, which is prepared entirely by the Services, without the involvement of Midas Gold.

Claim 11: The company claims to leave the area better than they found it but there is a risk they will mine the ore, declare bankruptcy and leave a mess for American taxpayers.

False.

The author is well-aware of the changed regulatory environment that has stopped this scenario from happening for nearly two decades.

The funding needed to repair the area will be set aside in a bond or trust before we begin; that is the law. Before we can move a shovel of dirt, tens of millions or more will be set aside, under government control, to guarantee reclamation costs estimates that are vetted and approved by regulators.

We also designed our plan differently. For the Stibnite Gold Project, restoration and mining are linked together from Day One. We made sure that, before an ounce of gold is produced, benefits to the environment will already be occurring.

We will start by addressing legacy environmental impacts during the construction period and continue by concurrently reclaiming our own disturbance as we go.

For example, during construction, we will begin fixing the large sources of sedimentation in the watershed and, in the first years of operation we will be removing, reprocessing, and safely storing the legacy mine waste that is threatening the river today.  By year seven of mining, we will begin backfilling the Yellow Pine pit to reconstruct the natural flow of the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River for the first time in 80 years.

Since our project will be properly bonded, the situation the author describes could not arise. Even if Midas Gold left unexpectedly – and let us be clear we have absolutely no intentions of doing so – the reclamation bond would allow the USFS and State agencies to complete reclamation, as defined in the mine plan, at no cost to the American taxpayers.

If you have questions after reading this summary or any other information surrounding our project, we encourage you to reach out to us at community@midasgoldinc.com or join us during one of our upcoming webinars or office hours (find the entire schedule at MidasGoldIdaho.com/virtual-events). We always love to hear from you and are more than willing to talk through the facts about the Stibnite Gold Project.