KILGORE, Idaho (KIFI)-The U.S. Forest Service has released a Draft Environmental Assessment for a gold exploration proposal in the Centennial Mountains near Kilgore. The 3-5 year exploration is on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, about 80 miles north of Idaho Falls.
The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) and Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) say the proposal from Excellon Resources, of Canada, is nearly identical to one the two groups challenged in federal court in early 2020. In that case, the judge ruled the Forest Service failed to evaluate the impact drilling operations would have on water quality and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The ruling held that exploration activities at Kilgore could not proceed until the Forest Service addressed those issues.
ICL and GYC say the new plan would include intensive road construction and drilling that would degrade important habitat for endangered species like grizzly bears, lynx, whitebark pine, and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
They say approval of the plan would come at the expense of fish, wildlife, and water quality.
Josh Johnson, ICL’s conservation associate, said, “Despite losing in court once already, Excellon Resources is back again for another chance to profit off our public lands while jeopardizing a key wildlife corridor in the Northern Rockies. If this project goes forward, it’s not just public lands, fish, and wildlife that stand to lose -- hunters, anglers, and recreationists will directly feel the brunt of these negative impacts.”
Kathy Rinaldi, GYC’s Idaho conservation coordinator, said, “Simply put, this new EA is basically the same as the old one. It does little to address our concerns about fish habitat and water quality impacts to this rugged and vital landscape. Idahoans deserve more than a cursory rubber stamp when it comes to their wildlife and water resources.” If approved, the project would encompass a 3-5 year comprehensive drilling program that would include 130 drilling stations and 10.2 miles of new roads within the Centennial Mountains. Drill pads would operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entirety of the drilling season.
Then, if Excellon determined it could find enough gold to make mining profitable, the company plans to develop an open-pit mine that includes cyanide leaching pools to extract the metal.
The project area is at the headwaters of Camas Creek, which flows into the Camas National Wildlife Refuge and Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area, both of which are vital habitat for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. This water supply is also an important source of irrigation water and replenishes the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.
Release of DEA gives the public 30 days to comment.