Hope for Abandoned Mines

Hope for Abandoned Mines

Published on September 4, 2020


The Stibnite Gold Project is a win-win for America. Not only will it become a much-needed domestic source of the critical mineral antimony, it will also be a landmark private-sector investment to restore this area without taxpayer dollars. Midas Gold is proposing to redevelop the mine and at the same time clean up World War II-vintage environmental problems created when a government backed company mined the area for tungsten and antimony to support the war effort.


Cleaning Up Abandoned Mines through Redevelopment

Abandoned mine sites have been among the most intractable environmental problems that have plagued our country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks the resources to address these mines, many of which were operated before the era of environmental laws. In other cases, the mine owners are bankrupt, and neither EPA nor any other parties has had the will or the financial resources to address the environmental risks they pose to water quality, fish and wildlife.

The Stibnite Mining District in Idaho is a good example of an abandoned mine site in need of remediation, with no government or historical owner to shoulder the load.  The Stibnite Mine was mined extensively during WWII to provide critical minerals like antimony and tungsten. For the past 25 years, it has lain fallow.  Midas Gold has stepped forward to accept the challenge of restoring this contaminated mine and the area around it, funding it through redevelopment of the mine site.

There is no “liability free” approach for the Stibnite Gold Project.

The Stibnite Gold Project is a way to bring needed resources to bear and in a way that assures the site will be left better than we found it. Any actions that take place at Stibnite will be fully backed with modern financial assurance (bonding). Over the last 30 years, not one new mine site has been abandoned with clean up left to taxpayers because of the strict financial assurance requirements now in place.

Permitting and government agency oversight are essential. The Stibnite Gold Project, which proposes re-mining of a brownfields legacy mine site with parallel environmental restoration, must first go through the full rigors of a NEPA review and full financial assurance (likely topping $100 million) will be set aside to ensure reclamation and restoration occurs as approved by regulators under its operating permits and approvals.

The parallel discussion between the EPA and Midas Gold, which started almost three years ago, is to identify solutions that address historical mining legacies in areas of Stibnite that are mostly outside of our footprint for re-mining and restoring the site being covered under NEPA.

Put simply, we are willing to evaluate and clean up contamination that we did not cause, including in areas where we do not intend to mine, and for which there are currently no other parties available to shoulder the burden. These actions would also be fully backed by financial assurance, as each phase is entered, to ensure they happen. Financial assurance, as required by law, assures cleanup.

Combining the Stibnite Gold Project, as it is being evaluated through NEPA, with and the potential agreement with the EPA to address off-site legacies, would provide a comprehensive approach to clean up at Stibnite that would be fully backed by financial assurance.

After being mined predominately in the WWII era and small operations through the 1990s, the U.S. government and former operators entered into a series of consent decrees between 2002-2012 with prior operators. In the last of the major decrees, the EPA agreed to not further pursue other federal agencies potentially responsible for the legacy impacts for any further reclamation costs for the site. As a result, the site was left with elevated levels of arsenic and antimony in ground and surface water, along with many other impacts to habitat and fish, unresolved. Nevertheless, as the NEPA review process has revealed, the water quality at Stibnite has remained impaired, both from natural and mining-related sources. Arsenic groundwater levels in some parts of the site reach up to 700 times the drinking water standard.

In our early study of the region, we knew we needed to design our plan to address these legacy impacts, paid for using the financial resources provided by mining, since no one else was going to do anything. Our plan was designed so that environmental success and economic success are inseparable, with site restoration fully integrated with mining and occurring concurrently.

We did not create these problems, but we are committed to being a part of the solution. This solution will be highly regulated and financially assured.

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