As a local tribe prepares to sue Vancouver-based Midas Gold over poor water quality in the Stibnite mining district of central Idaho, in the US, the company on Thursday committed to do its bit to improve water quality in the area where mining had been taking place for more than a century.
Subsidiary Midas Gold Idaho CEO Laurel Sayer said in a statement that the company shared the Nez Perce Tribe’s concern over water quality in the Stibnite mining district, where water quality sampling had showed high arsenic and antimony levels, "far beyond" what was considered acceptable for drinking water or aquatic life standards.
She noted, however, that Midas Gold had never conducted any mining operations at site and, therefore, had no control or responsibility for any pollutant discharges. The company’s actions had been limited to studying current conditions in the district, evaluating the optimal solutions for remediation and restoration and presenting those solutions to the regulators responsible for the site.
The mining firm pointed out that the Stibnite district had more than three-million tons of tailings from the Second World War era laying unconstrained in the Meadow Creek valley, capped by an additional seven-million tons of spent heap leach ore, and numerous other openpits and waste rock dumps across the site.
“It is therefore not unexpected to see elevated levels of metals in ground and surface water and it is likely that elevated levels of arsenic and antimony have been a problem for decades.”
Midas Gold said that one monitoring station, adjacent to the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon river and downslope from a historic waste dump and hazardous waste repository installed by the US Forest Service, measured arsenic at more than 700 times higher than the drinking water standard.
The company also noted that under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, it was not legally responsible for legacy impacts at site caused by previous mining companies.
“Filing a lawsuit will not fix the problem. Instead, the site needs to be cleaned up, a point on which we are certain the Tribe can agree with,” said Sayer.
As part of the company’s plan of restoration and operations submitted to regulators in 2016, Midas Gold had included plans to resolve problems facing the site, including reconnecting fish to their native spawning grounds, fixing the largest source of sedimentation in the river and removing tailings and waste that degrade water quality.
“Private industry is the partner regulators and local communities need to bring solutions to the Stibnite mining district,” said Sayer. “Over the past several years, our team of engineers, consultants and experts have undertaken a wide-ranging characterisation of the current issues at the site in order to develop a comprehensive plan to profitably and responsibly use mining to address the contamination and legacy issues. A lawsuit is counterproductive to a solution.”