Mining Company Midas Gold Allowed by Trump Administration's Forest Service to Write Report Analyzing Own Project

The Trump administration is allowing the company behind a controversial gold mining proposal in Idaho to write its own environmental analysis, according to the Associated Press.

Conservation group Earthworks obtained documents that show Canadian mining company Midas Gold is being allowed to pen the biological assessment for their proposed Stibnite Gold Project, which will be later used to form an official environmental impact statement, according to the Friday report.

The biological assessment is normally written by independent contractors or the U.S. Forest Service. The assessment is intended to determine the environmental impact of the mine would have on fish protected under the Endangered Species Act. The mine is located near Idaho's Salmon River, home to bull trout, steelhead trout and salmon.

The documents allegedly show that Midas Gold heavily lobbied the Trump administration. The company's initial request to take part in the assessment was refused by the Forest Service in February 2018, but the lobbying continued, and they were said to be leading the evaluation and writing a draft by October 2018.

Midas Gold Vice President of External Affairs Mckinsey Lyon told the news agency that a company writing their own biological assessment is a standard part of a "collaborative process."

John Freemuth, a professor at Boise State University who is an expert in public lands policy, disagreed with that assessment. He claimed that while mining companies lobbying governments is not unusual, a company being allowed to write its own biological assessment was unheard of and didn't pass the "smell test."

"At the end of the day, people are going to sue if they think that the document is insufficient," Freemuth told the outlet. "This will be heavily scrutinized."

gold nugget in hand
The proposed mining site is said to contain over four million ounces of gold. Getty

The proposed mine is located in the Stibnite Mining District, an area that had previously been mined for decades before ceasing activity in 1997, leaving behind environmental damage that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent around $4 million trying to clean up afterwards. Midas Gold believes the site contains over 4 million ounces of gold and more than 100 million pounds of antimony.

The indigenous Nez Perce Tribe are strongly opposed to the mine. They filed suit against Midas Gold in August, alleging the company had violated the Clean Water Act. Prior to that, they formally announced their opposition to the proposal in an October 2018 press release.

"For the Nez Perce Tribe, the value of the land, wildlife, and resources will always be worth more than any amount of gold," said Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Shannon F. Wheeler at the time. "History has proven that mining scars the landscape and damages natural resources. Damage to our natural resources will have long-term impacts on everyone, and the impacts will still be felt by people here long after the company, and gold, have left the country."

Despite previous mining efforts at the site wreaking havoc on the surrounding environment, Midas Gold says their proposed mining operation would have a positive effect on the area. The company's website claims the project "can help the environment and leave the area better than it is today."

The mine's initial environmental impact statement is expected to be ready by early 2020, with a final decision possibly happening later that year.