U.S. Representatives Decry Political Interference Over Controversial Idaho Mine

Washington, D.C., Jan 27 — Today U.S. Representatives Betty McCullom (D-MN) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), who serve as chair and vice-chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee with oversight of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), along with four of their House colleagues, sent a letter criticizing the USFS decision regarding British Columbia-based Midas Gold’s proposed open pit, cyanide-leach gold mine in central Idaho.

Documents show the Forest Service succumbed to pressure from Washington, DC and granted the company permission to write a key environmental report for the proposed Stibnite mine, which is located at the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River and adjacent to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The Biological Assessment will evaluate the potential effects of the proposed mine on Snake River steelhead trout, Chinook salmon, and bull trout – listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Below are statements from local residents and conservation organizations:

“Midas Gold’s undue influence on the Forest Service has tainted this whole process,” said Charles Ray of McCall, Idaho and member of Save the South Fork.  “It’s time to scrap this compromised Draft Environmental Impact Statement and start over with a fair and transparent process. I applaud Representative Pingree’s and Representative McCollum’s efforts to restore some integrity and credibility to the process.”

“These fish are faced with enough hardship that threatens their survival,” said Fred Coriell, housebuilder and President, Save the South Fork.  “The cumulative impacts of a massive open pit mining operation right on top of their spawning habitat must be evaluated without the influence of a mining company’s bottom line.  History has shown that when you put mines and salmon together the fish don’t do so well.”

“As a Fly fishing guide, and a native Idahoan, my career relies on healthy rivers and fish populations,” said Mike Raymondi, fly-fishing guide in Boise, Idaho. “The Stibnite mine proposal lies in a highly sensitive area that will no doubt have considerable effects. It is imperative that large impact projects are subject to unbiased and independent scientific review. Allowing Midas Gold to author the review will only weaken the public’s trust in the management of our shared natural resources. The general public should be allowed to know the impacts of this mine on fish and wildlife, and also recreation to this highly sensitive area with an independent scientific review, not a Midas Gold contractor.”

“We are so grateful that the members of the subcommittee take seriously this grave breach of protection for our threatened salmon.” said Judy Anderson, retired school teacher and board member of Save the South Fork in McCall, Idaho.  “The Idaho Congressional delegation seem oblivious to the threat to the process posed by Midas’ undue influence. Many Idahoans have worked hard to keep our salmon and steelhead runs and bull trout habitat vital.  We want to know the permitting process can be trusted to be unbiased.”

“Midas Gold has touted the Stibnite project as a progressive, eco-friendly mining operation that breaks the norms for accountability and transparency,” said Nic Nelson, Executive Director, Idaho Rivers United. “After being denied NFR status numerous times, and lobbying heavily to be granted that status, this shows that the substance of the mining operations and administration, beyond the glitzy public relations campaign, is just business as usual; prioritizing Midas profit and control over environmental concerns and recovery. IRU applauds Representatives Pingree and McCullom for showing leadership in contesting the allowance of Midas to author its own Biological Assessment, a blatant conflict of interest, and defending the provisions set forth in the Endangered Species Act and NEPA process.”

“The mining industry is the nation’s number one source of toxic pollution. Letting them author a report on the potential effects of their own project is completely inappropriate,” said Bonnie Gestring, Northwest Program Director, Earthworks

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