A company called Endomines, headquartered in Sweden and Finland, is opening a gold mine on a patented claim on private property in the Elk City area. This mine would be surrounded by national forests. If the mine expands on to the national forests the Forest Service would be required to do an environmental analysis.
The processing site for the mine would be located on a different parcel of private land near Elk City that is also surrounded by federal public lands, including Red River, which would be only 600 feet away from the processing site. Endomines have applied for a permit from Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to reuse ground water from the area for processing gold ore. This reused water would be collected in holding ponds and then recycled during minerals processing. However, due to the potential for significant precipitation at certain times of the year (the ponds could spill over), DEQ is recommending that some of the water from the ponds (which will contain heavy metals) could be used to “irrigate trees” when the soils are dry, which generally occurs May – September. In other words using the dirty water to irrigate the area might prevent all of the dirty water from spilling and contaminating the area, including Red River.
Methyl isobutyl carbinol, an alcohol that according to online sources is “slightly toxic,” is used in gold ore flotation processing. The DEQ information doesn’t indicate if other processing, such as the use of toxic cyanide, would also be employed. However, the information from DEQ does indicate that cyanide, heavy metals and salts need to be monitored. The ore and tailings produced in the past have been known to contain lead, cadmium and other heavy metals. There would also be concentrations of various salts. Apparently these by-products of mining and processing present the greatest risks to water quality. Red River contains Bull Trout and steelhead, which are both protected under the Endangered Species Act. The river also contains Chinook salmon. The potential for harm to these rare species is also quite concerning.
DEQ is accepting comments until April 3. You may want to register concerns about a foreign company operating an ore processing facility so close to Red River, and the threat it may pose to water quality and the adjacent national forest and public land administered by BLM. The West is filled with stories of how tailings and mining operations pollute water.
Send comments to:
Nicolas Hiebert, P.E.
DEQ Lewiston Regional Office
1118 “F” St.
Lewiston, ID 83501
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