After significant community opposition, McCall City Council declined on Monday to join a community partnership agreement with Midas Gold over proposed mining along the Salmon River.
Instead, council members in the special session voted to revisit the agreement after Midas Gold’s draft environmental impact study is released this summer. Council member Colby Nielsen cited Midas Gold’s early presentation of a formal agreement among the chief concerns of council members and residents opposed to the agreement.
“(There is) pretty broad opposition in our city, and it’s the point in time we need to listen to what our people have to say,” Nielsen said during the meeting, according to a city of McCall press release.
Midas Gold is seeking a permit under the National Environmental Policy Act to mine on Forest Service land intertwined with their private holdings in the central Idaho mountains.
Midas Gold Idaho — a subsidiary of Midas Gold Corp. — wants to restart open-pit mining along the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River. Their target is the Stibnite Mining District and its 4.5 million ounces of gold and 100 million pounds of antimony, a metal used in electronics, fire retardants and the national defense industry. Antimony was recently added to the U.S. Department of Interior’s list of essential minerals, and Stibnite would be the only domestically mined source. Midas Gold Idaho representatives told the Idaho Press actual mining operations would last 15 years, and they could be working in the area up to 25 years. But, company officials say, they’re committed to an extensive restoration plan that could repair damage done by past mining operations.
Several conservation groups, including the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United and American Rivers have expressed concern at Midas Gold’s plans for open-pit mining in a key Idaho water source. The Nez Perce Tribe, which has treaty rights in the area, announced its opposition to the project in October 2018.
However, several other communities in the West Central Mountains have embraced Midas Gold’s plans for the area — particularly the significant economic impacts the mining operation could bring. Cascade City Council unanimously voted to join the community partnership agreement in October. Yellow Pine, Donnelly, Council, Idaho County, Adams County, New Meadows and Riggins also signed the agreement and appointed representatives to Midas Gold’s Stibnite Advisory Council.
Communities that sign Midas Gold’s community agreement also get a seat on the board of a foundation the company established that would provide financial assistance to community applicants based on the mine’s success.