Issues: Mining, Wild Lands
Partners: Friends of the Inyo, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Nez Perce Tribe
Airport Origin : McCall Municipal Airport
The Nimiipuu or Nez Perce people have always called the lands in the Pacific Northwest home. The natural beauty and bountiful gifts of this area are incomparable. Since time immemorial the Nez Perce have occupied and used these rivers, mountains, and valleys in what is today Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana for subsistence, ceremonial, cultural, spiritual and commercial purposes. These “resources” are also intimately connected to, and part of, the Nez Perce’s origin, history, religion, spirituality, and identity as a people.
The discovery of precious minerals and gems in this area brought a different type of resource use into focus, mining. Since that time, the Nez Perce’s homelands have been negatively impacted by many different types of mining activities including gold mining. In 1860, the Tribe’s homeland was overrun by thousands of gold-seeking prospectors who trespassed on the Tribe’s Reservation and illegally removed millions of dollars of gold. Rather than uphold its treaty obligations to protect the Nez Perce and expel the trespassers, the United States chose to solve the problem by forcing the Tribe to enter into a new treaty that reduced the size of the Tribe's Reservation by 90 percent to make way for the miners and others.
Mining still threatens the area today. A prime example is the historic Stibnite Gold mining district. This area, contaminated by past mining activity, is now the focus of a new project proposed by Midas Gold, a Canadian Company controlled by a New York investment company. Past companies and the United States have failed to follow through with promises to clean up the polluted area. Now Midas Gold has promised to clean up the area by mining gold from it. This promise seems too good to be true especially when the proposed mine is actually a massive cyanide vat leach mining project that will damage pristine, undisturbed areas.
With this project, mountains will be moved, valleys will be filled in, streams will be relocated, and two new toxic lakes will be dammed up in this ecosystem. The lasting impact of this project will be real and substantial, 413 acres of toxic mine tailings. 430 acres of waste rock storage, three toxic tailings ponds.
In addition to the irreplaceable indigenous cultural resources and values in the South Fork Salmon River watershed, the Stibnite Gold Project poses a direct threat to outstanding recreational opportunities. Within the analysis area of the proposed project, over 20% of chinook salmon and bull trout habitat will be destroyed; both Endangered Species Act listed fish, and beloved by Idahoans and recreational tourists.
Less than 10 miles downstream of the project site, whitewater enthusiasts from all over the world travel annually to paddle the challenging rapids and awesome canyons of the East Fork South Fork and the South Fork Salmon River.
Further downstream, the Main Salmon River is an incredible recreational resource, and provides critical income to rural riverside communities in the area. Annual visitors to the Main Salmon River spend $13.5 million annually on guide/outfitters services, food, lodging, and other goods and services in the local area.
Idaho’s booming outdoor recreation economy, which provides 78,000 direct jobs and $2.3 billion in annual wages and salaries, far outways the short-term economic gain offered by gold mining.