Mining

John Robison / Idaho Conservation League

The accidental release of toxins into the Animas River in Colorado is a reminder of the long-term effects of mining. The decades-old gold mine had been dormant, but the toxins from the operation breached a dam there on the Environmental Protection Agency's watch.

Environmentalists around the West are pointing to the disaster, saying what happened in Colorado could happen in other states — including Idaho.

The U.S. Forest Service has approved a gold mining company's plan to reopen a 4-mile road in a central Idaho wilderness and drill core samples to find out if two of its claims are profitable enough to be mined.

The federal agency in a statement Tuesday says Payette National Forest Supervisor Keith Lannom approved American Independence Mines and Minerals Co.'s plan in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness.

A coalition of conservation groups and the Nez Perce tribe are challenging the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a gold mining company's plan to reopen a 4-mile road in a central Idaho wilderness and drill core samples to find out if two claims are profitable enough to be mined.

The Idaho Conservation League and four other groups this month filed an objection with the federal agency as a first step in a potential lawsuit.

A House committee has advanced to the full Idaho House a bill aimed at eliminating federal Clean Water Act protections for suction dredges and also opening Wild and Scenic Rivers to the miners.

The bill before the House Resources and Conservation Committee on Wednesday narrowly avoided dying in committee amid constitutionality concerns with a first vote that ended in a 9-9 tie.

The committee than approved by voice vote sending the bill the full House but with an amendment.

Jason / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Forest Service is asking for public comment on plans to build a road and bring drilling equipment to a remote area of Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

American Independence Mines and Mineral Company wants to turn a profit on gold ore near Big Creek on the Payette National Forest.

An 11-year state and federal study of selenium pollution in a southeastern Idaho watershed where some 700 sheep, cattle and horses have died over the last several decades after grazing in contaminated areas has found the toxin is likely moving through groundwater.

The 36-page study on the Upper Blackfoot River Watershed released earlier this month by the U.S. Geological Survey also found that selenium levels spiked in the river during spring thaw.

Researchers say the inactive Maybe Canyon Mine is producing the most contamination.

Two mines in northern Idaho have agreed to merge.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports that U.S. Silver will merge with Scorpio Mining Corp. The companies announced the merger Friday.

U.S. Silver owns and operates the Galena Mine complex in the Silver Valley's Coeur d'Alene Mining District, which is just west of Wallace. Scorpio is a Toronto-based silver producer, which owns the Nuestro Senora Mine in Mexico.

Darren Blasutti will become the president and chief executive officer of the new management team.

stonebraker
University of Idaho Library

William Allen Stonebraker worked and played in the rugged central Idaho wilderness at the turn of the 20th century and he's left behind a unique legacy of photographs to tell his story. That photo collection has just been released by the University of Idaho Library.

Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre

A dam break at a central British Columbia mine could threaten salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Polley is an open-pit copper and gold mine roughly 400 miles north of Seattle. A dam holding back water and silt leftover from the mining process broke Monday. It released enough material to fill more than 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Government regulators have not yet determined its content. But documents show it could contain sulfur, arsenic and mercury.

It's been over three years since a tunnel collapse at a north Idaho silver mine killed miner Larry Marek. Yet federal records show a series of federal penalties issued to the mine's owners still have not been paid.

Federal officials say a miner has died at the Sunshine Mine near Kellogg in northern Idaho.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says the miner died about 2 p.m. Monday after becoming caught between a mine shaft and a device called a skip transporting miners.

Agency spokeswoman Amy Louviere says two miners were on top of the skip when it moved before one was clear.

She says the second miner avoided injury.

The agency has dispatched investigators to the mine.

Coeur d'Alene River, water, Idaho
Threefatcats / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal officials plan to spend $38 million in northern Idaho's Coeur d'Alene River Basin this summer cleaning up toxic pollution left from a century worth of mining in the region.

The Environmental Protection Agency tells the Coeur d'Alene Press that up to 125 residential and commercial properties will be cleaned up.

Agency spokesman Ed Moreen says that more than 17 miles of paved roads in eight upper basin communities will be repaired or replaced.

idaho gold mine
Michallaurence / Flickr Creative Commons

Chris Cora stands on what used to be a mountaintop in the Umpqua Basin of southern Oregon. Now, it’s essentially a landfill. “Filled with waste rock and tailings," Cora says. "There’s actually zinc ore in here. Well, it’s concentrated zinc, which is really bad for the environment.”

A conservation group and the Nez Perce Tribe have filed a lawsuit against three federal agencies seeking to stop a central Idaho gold mine exploration project by a Canadian company.

The tribe and the Idaho Conservation League filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Idaho against the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service.

Photo by Hecla Mining

Four miners who were injured and trapped by a rock burst at a northern Idaho mine two years ago are suing Hecla Mining Co., alleging mine mangers sent them into unsafe working conditions while assuring them the area was safe.

The Spokesman-Review reports Ronnel E. Barrett, Gregg Hammerberg, Eric J. Tester and Matthew Williams are seeking more than $1 million for injuries, medical treatment and lost wages.

Idaho Gold Mine, Yellow Pine Pit
Courtesy Midas Gold Corp.

Canadian mining company Midas Gold says it's making progress on its Golden Meadows project near Stibnite, Idaho.  The company says it continues to advance the project on several fronts. The ultimate goal is to mine gold in the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River.

The Shoshone News Press reports more than 30 percent of Galena employees will be affected. During a mandatory meeting in Wallace, Idaho, U.S. Silver and Gold laid off 126 workers.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday makes it harder for miners to gain access to Northwest rivers. Environmental groups hailed the decision as a major victory.

The owner of the troubled Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho hopes new safety upgrades will prevent future accidents. Hecla Mining announced Tuesday that it’s reopened the silver mine in Mullan, Idaho, after a year-long closure.

Hecla President Phil Baker made the announcement at a press conference in Spokane.

“It's nice to be able to give you guys a good news story.”

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Mining has pumped billions of dollars into the Idaho economy. It’s one of the states considered by the industry to be the most mining-friendly.

But even here, the industry is frustrated that it can take years before permits are issued and work can get underway. That’s why mining officials are appealing to state lawmakers to help speed up the regulatory process. It’s a proposition that has environmentalists worried.

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