After receiving numerous written correspondences from local landowners, organizations and alarmed citizens, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has extended the public comment period on a proposed gold mine less than 20 miles Southeast of Boise. A public meeting has also been scheduled for January 20 to give critics a chance to express their concerns directly to the mining company's president.
The cyanidation facility, to be located near the mine along the popular recreational thoroughfare Blacks Creek Road, was proposed by Laguna Beach, California-based Desert Mineral Mining (DMM) to DEQ in 2003. The company plans on processing about 100 tons of ore per day, through ore crushers and cyanide leaching ponds with 20 to 30 employees over a two to five years period.
While close in proximity to popular trailheads, campgrounds, cattle grazing areas and Arrowrock Reservoir, DMM's proposed site is small enough to have been submitted for expeditious permitting under a provision of Idaho's mining laws. As such, the application's one-month period for public comment was half over before consecutive articles in Mountain Home News, Boise Weekly and The Idaho Statesman caused DEQ mine project coordinator Bruce Schuld to receive an avalanche of printed, e-mailed, typewritten and hand-scrawled notes expressing a wide range of fears and objections.
"The volume of comments has significantly increased," reports Schuld, who made the decision on January 3--the original deadline--to extend the comment period until February 4. "Half of them are purely emotional--we hate this idea, we don't want it, stop it--but the other half provide real insight why this proposal may threaten people's livelihood or lifestyle, and they're giving us good things to think about. Some of these things I may not have even fully considered when I wrote the draft--but that's what the public comment is supposed to be all about."
Some of the concerns expressed in submissions--including letters from the Boise City Public Works Department, Elmore County Commissioner's office, Idaho Department of Lands and Idaho Department of Fish and Game--are the mine's close proximity to major geologic fault lines, its questionable access to water sources in the surrounding countryside, a lack of sufficient dialogue between expeditiously minded DMM and the appropriate local and state agencies and an incomplete reclamation plan for the post-mining landscape.
The public meetings take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 20 at DEQ's state office at 1410 N. Hilton St. in Boise. Speakers can sign up at the event, with each likely to receive approximately five minutes to make a case for or against the mine. DMM president Dan Terzo and the heads of the company's engineering and construction staffs will be present, and Schuld says he expects them to answer local worries in person.
"I'm putting them on the hotseat," he says. "They should basically be prepared to defend their proposed operations, the mechanics of it, the designs, the plans and the specifications."
Schuld is quick to add, however, that for any verbal comments to be considered by DEQ in its draft permit evaluation, they must also be submitted in writing by the February 4 deadline. Comment can be made through e-mail via DEQ's Web site (www.deq.state.id.us), and DMM's draft application is available for download from the site.