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Judge Puts CuMo Mine Project Near Boise On Hold

Grimes Creek, site of the proposed CuMo mine north of Boise. (John Robison, Idaho Conservation League)
Grimes Creek, site of the proposed CuMo mine north of Boise. (John Robison, Idaho Conservation League)
July 13, 2016

BOISE, Idaho - A federal district judge has put the CuMo Mine project at the headwaters of the Boise River on hold for a second time.

The judge ruled that the U.S. Forest Service acted arbitrarily when it issued permits for a Canadian company to explore for molybdenum, used as an alloy to make steel stronger. Several groups, including the Idaho Conservation League and Idaho Rivers United, had sued, concerned about potential damage to the watershed that provides 20 percent of Boise's drinking water.

"It's a win for the people who live along the Boise River," said Sean Finn, a boad member of the Golden Eagle Chapter of the Audubon Society, the third plaintiff in the suit, "and for the wildlife and the vegetation that relies on the Boise River as an oasis in an area that is essentially desert."

The CuMo project includes plans for 10 miles of roads and 137 drill pads, which could pave the way for a huge open-pit mine. Four years ago, the court blocked the project, saying the Forest Service hadn't adequately studied the impact on groundwater. This time, the judge wanted to know more about the impact on a rare flower called Sacajawea's bitterroot in the Grimes Creek area.

In the wake of mining disasters such as the one that fouled the Animas River in Colorado, Finn said he thinks mines shouldn't be built right above a major population center such as Boise.

"The Forest Service, in our opinion, is inappropriately allowing them to do exploratory mining without doing appropriate environmental assessment before that mining occurs," he said.

The CuMo project isn't dead yet. It could be revived if the Forest Service submits a more in-depth environmental assessment and the judge approves it.

ICL's blog about the decision is online at idahoconservation.org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ID