It’s Here! Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Stibnite Gold Project Released

It’s Here! Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Stibnite Gold Project Released

We are excited that the U.S. Forest Service released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the Stibnite Gold Project today. Community members now have 60 days to comment on our proposed redevelopment and restoration of the historical Stibnite Mining District. In addition to producing gold and silver, the Stibnite Gold Project would produce the United States’ only domestically mined source of the critical mineral antimony, invest approximately $1 billion in construction, provide roughly 500 direct, family wage jobs for Idahoans as well as numerous indirect jobs in the supply, services and contracting sectors, address numerous legacy mining issues affecting the environment and reconnect migrating salmon to their native spawning grounds for the first time in more than 80 years.

“Our team has worked hard to get the Stibnite Gold Project to this point and we are so proud of our company’s efforts to date,” said Laurel Sayer, CEO of Midas Gold Idaho. “We have identified an opportunity to responsibly redevelop and restore a brownfields site that was essentially abandoned after more than a century of mining activity. In the process, we will invest over a billion dollars in Idaho and bring hundreds of family-wage jobs to our rural communities. If you want to help us create a brighter future for the historical Stibnite Mining District, please write to regulators and tell them know why you support the Stibnite Gold Project.”

We designed the Stibnite Gold Project to integrate responsible, modern mining with the restoration of legacy and new disturbances. At first glance at the extensive DEIS released today, readers should note the Executive Summary prepared by the U.S. Forest Service only summarizes the impacts of proposed mining. The reader should look to the rest of the document and Appendix D to see the holistic impact analysis with the voluntary and required mitigation proposed for the various affected resources.

The project has strong support in Idaho, with more than 1,000 people signed up as members of the Support Stibnite Coalition, most of them Idaho residents.

“I have lived in Idaho since I was 17,” said Willie Sullivan, co-chair of the Support Stibnite Coalition.  I have memories of the old mining operations up at Stibnite, having roamed there as a child, and I have fond memories of hunting and fishing in the area as a child. If you’ve been to the site, you know it is a mess and needs to be cleaned up. I support Midas Gold’s plans to use modern mining to restore the site because I want my grandchildren to see this area cleaned up. Plus, the project will be a boon for our economy and provide jobs to many families in our region.”

Individuals who wish to view the document or comment on the Project can click here. Comments are due by October 13, 2020.  The comment period is legally required to be 45 days long, however, the U.S. Forest Service has decided to extend the comment period for the Stibnite Gold Project by 15 days – making the comment period 60 days total.

Comprehensive Review of the Stibnite Gold Project

We have been studying the Stibnite Gold Project for the past decade. During this time, we have worked closely with regulators to provide all of the information they needed to conduct a comprehensive review of the project under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

Midas Gold has delivered more than 80 reports totaling 27,522 pages of scientific data and analysis to the 11 federal, state and local agencies reviewing the Project. These documents included baseline studies, technical reports, scientific modeling data and other supporting information. During the review process, regulators made 114 requests for additional information and 22 additional requests for clarifications in order to evaluate the thoroughness of the environmental impact analysis.  We responded to all of these requests with additional data and analysis to aid regulators in their careful consideration of our proposed plan and various alternative development scenarios.

Mitigation Efforts of the Stibnite Gold Project

We intentionally designed the Stibnite Gold Project to leave the historical mining district better than we found it and protect the environment during all phases of mining.  With the redevelopment of the Project site, we will repair the damage from a century of mining activity that left behind un-reclaimed open pits, tailings, mill and smelter site, development rock dumps and a failed hydroelectric dam. The impacts of the past are affecting water quality on the site, with elevated levels of metals and sediment, and have cut off fish passage 80 years ago. The benefit of these actions to restore the site may not be evident in the Executive Summary of the DEIS, however the information is detailed throughout the document.

While mining companies are legally required to provide mitigation for many of the environmental impacts they create, we took it one step further. We developed detailed mitigation and restoration plans for our actions on the site but we looked outside the project footprint to identify other areas that could benefit from environmental reclamation. These efforts will cause the Project to provide net benefit to wetlands, streams, water quality and fisheries in the Project area following mining and closure. Get all the details on Midas Gold’s mitigation efforts by reviewing the various resource sections, and especially Appendix D, of the DEIS.

Improving fish habitat has always been a top priority for Midas Gold.  To support anadromous fish passage to the headwaters of the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River (EFSFSR) and its tributaries, we plan to build a temporary stream diversion tunnel around the Yellow Pine Pit before operations begin. Our analysis shows this will give fish a 14-year head start on reestablishing natural reproduction, instead of waiting until the stream channel can be permanently restored across the Yellow Pine Pit.  To ensure Chinook salmon have access to important spawning areas upstream, Midas Gold will improve passage conditions in a steep, woody debris-clogged section of the river. This work can improve genetic diversity of isolated fish populations, improve overall productivity by increasing access to critical habitat and improving access to feeding and refuge areas (DEIS 4.12 Fish Resources – 4.12-33).

Even though Blowout Creek lies outside the Project footprint, we’ve proposed stabilizing and restoring the area to improve watershed conditions and improve habitat. This will improve water quality by considerably reducing erosion and sedimentation in the upper stretches of the main tributary of the EFSFSR. This will also allow wetland restoration to occur in the Blowout Creek drainage as soon as construction of the mine is complete. Wetland restoration will continue across the site through operational year 18.

We will be required to bond for the full cost of reclamation and mitigation efforts before mining can begin, which will ensure it happens, no matter what.

Community Engagement

From the start of the project, well before permitting commenced, we worked closely with the community to share our plans for the future and seek feedback. Midas Gold has always understood the importance of sharing information with its local communities, so they have the facts about the Stibnite Gold Project and so they can provide meaningful feedback on the project to both Midas Gold and, during formal comment periods, to regulators.  Since 2015, we have held 841 community meetings to share information on the Stibnite Gold Project. Additionally, since 2014, we’ve conducted 192 tours of the site bringing 1,827 interested parties to see the site and learn more about Midas Gold’s plans.  Given the challenges of such tours this year, we made it possible for you to take a virtual tour here.  Over the last two years, Midas Gold has held more than 26 community office hours, giving people the opportunity to ask members of the Midas Gold team questions about the project in-person or virtually, and conducted 22 virtual presentations of various aspects of the Project to any interested members of the community and we have lots more scheduled, check out the entire line up here.

Changes to the Plan Based on Public Feedback

We have regularly refined our plans for the site based on conversations in the community and further environmental studies. As a result of feedback on our Plan of Restoration and Operations (PRO), which was submitted to regulators in 2016, Midas Gold submitted a modified Plan of Restoration and Operations (ModPRO) to the U.S. Forest Service in May of 2019.  The plan makes it clear that we listened to feedback, concerns and suggestions from the community. The refined plan reduces the environmental footprint of the Project, improves water quality, enhances additional habitat and increases recreational access throughout the life of the Project compared to the PRO. The ModPRO was included in the DEIS and is up for public consideration as Alternative 2. Our team believes Alternative 2 is the strongest plan for restoring and re-mining the historic mining district at this point, but we continue to seek and develop refinements to reduce the project footprint and impact.

As an example of the evolution of the Project, during the public scoping process, we received feedback that maintaining access through site to Thunder Mountain Road for recreationalists was key.  Originally, there was not a plan to have a public access through the site during construction and operations because of safety concerns. However, after recognizing it was a community priority, we identified a potential solution that still prioritizes safety.  As a result, Alternative 2 includes maintaining access through the site by routing traffic on a road through or near the Yellow Pine Pit.  On the environmental front, interest was expressed in seeing more backfilling of pits than just the Yellow Pine pit contemplated in the PRO and so, in the ModPRO (Alternative 2 in the DEIS), the Hangar Flats pit is proposed to be partially backfilled and the Stibnite pit portion of the West End pit completely backfilled, eliminating the need for the West End development rock storage facility.

“We are grateful for all of the input community members have provided on our project,” said Sayer. “These comments have allowed us to present the best plan possible. Together, with the help of Idahoans, we have designed a project that will prove mining, the environment and local communities can work hand in hand. We are excited by the possibility of cleaning up an area that has been damaged by more than a century of historical mining practices and, in the process, providing well-paying jobs for hundreds of Idaho families and supplying America with a mineral critical to our national defense and economy.”

Benefits of the Stibnite Gold Project

If permitted, the Stibnite Gold Project will generate significant employment and economic benefits for the communities closest to the site and Idaho. To build the Project, we would invest approximately $1 billion in Idaho and create more than 500 direct jobs through construction and operations, with wages two to three times the local average.  The Project would also generate a significant number of jobs in the service and supply industries to support project activities and contribute significant local, state and federal taxes.

History of the Stibnite Mining District

If you’ve spent much time on our website, you already know that the historic Stibnite Mining District has seen over 100 years of mining activity. In 1938, the area became subject to large-scale mining, initially in reaction to the loss of overseas supplies of, and later for purposes of aiding the war effort with the production of, tungsten and antimony. Since then, limited remediation of environmental legacies has occurred but major impacts remain. In the early 2000s, the U.S. Government and remaining parties signed a series of agreements to be held harmless from future clean up at site. Thus, the conditions that remain have been effectively abandoned.

Midas Gold was not involved in any of the historic mining that occurred at Stibnite but we designed our plans for the Stibnite Gold Project to solve the legacy impacts that remain at site and fund full-scale restoration through modern mining.

Get Involved

If you would like to help support the Stibnite Gold Project and bring all of these benefits to life, we encourage you to get involved in the public comment period. Write a letter and share the news. Tell your friends and family it is time to help bring more than 500 jobs to Idaho, secure our mineral future and finally restore the site. Comments on the DEIS are due by October 13, 2020.

For more information about the project, site restoration and economic benefits as outlined in the DEIS, visit www.RestoreThe Site.com.