Midas Gold, a Canadian mining company, hopes to dig an open pit gold mine underneath the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River. The mine would require putting a mile of this fork of the Salmon River into a pipe for over a decade.
The project is still in the exploration stage and no mine proposal has been submitted to the Forest Service to date. This summer, the Forest Service recently released a Draft Decision and Environmental Assessment for public review. This last week, the Forest Service received several objections on this next round of mine exploration.
“Past mining activities in this area wiped out salmon and steelhead and the mining companies left the public with the cleanup bill,” said John Robison, Public Lands Director for the Idaho Conservation League. “Salmon and steelhead are starting to make a comeback, but additional mine exploration and development pose a significant threat to these fish. We objected to the latest exploration plan to ask the Forest Service to take additional steps to better avoid, minimize and mitigate the impacts.”
It is not just conservation groups that are alarmed about the project. Fishermen, floaters and businesses are concerned as well:
“My grandchildren are the 7th generation of our family to have been born and live in Idaho,” says Rob Fuller from Grangeville. “The South Fork of the Salmon has meant a great deal to all of us. We have all learned to catch and release cutthroat, steelhead and Chinook on a fly on the South Fork. There is no place ethically or morally for a mine or any other extractive undertaking in the South Fork drainage.”
“I have been paddling and fishing the South Fork of the Salmon for over 20 years,” said Zach Crist. “As an avid outdoorsman, I treasure Idaho for its beautiful landscape and all the amazing recreation it offers. The South Fork is truly one of Crown Jewels of it all. Few places as wild and beautiful still exist in the lower 48. This is no place for this type of proposal.”
“The Salmon River is very dear to my heart,” said Morgan Bessaw. “I have spent many summers working along the South Fork of the Salmon River, and have created some of the happiest memories of my life here. While mining may bring money into the economy for a few years, no amount of money is worth risking one of the most spectacular rivers in Idaho and the salmon it supports. The Salmon River provides clean water for fish and people and amazing recreation opportunities for both Idahoans and tourists alike. The Forest Service should incorporate additional safety measures into the exploration plan.”
"The South Fork Salmon River is incredibly important for fish, fishermen, and local communities,” said Perry Brown from Boise. “Just the transportation of diesel fuel along narrow, winding, steep, riverside roads is a tremendous threat. It's not a matter of if an accident happens but when.”
The Forest Service is expected to finalize the decision on the mine exploration phase of the project in mid-October.