The route that Atlanta Gold Corporation takes to and from its cyanide mining site might change. The company's general manager said this week that instead of hauling mining materials from Boise to Atlanta via a route along the north fork of the Boise River, the company has a new route from Mountain Home to Atlanta on the James Creek road.
"Having driven it a number of times personally I believe it is a better route," said Bruce Thorndycraft, general manager for Atlanta Gold. "It's safer, and more environmentally safer."
The route change is in part related to the criticism the company has received from environmental groups and the city of Boise.
"No one was satisfied with the route to Atlanta," Thorndycraft said. That's because the trucks going back and forth from the company's facilities in Boise and Mountain Home were going to be hauling, among other things, diesel fuel and some cyanide solution.
Atlanta Gold, a Canadian-owned company, is hoping to start up a large cyanide heap leach operation on about 450 acres of federal and private land just south of the old mining town of Atlanta, near the headwaters of the Boise River.
The new trucking route, which was reported by the Idaho Business Review, didn't sit well with environmental groups who have long opposed the project.
"The James Creek road is possibly the only road they could have chosen that is more dangerous than the one they were on," said Justin Hayes, a spokesman for the Idaho Conservation League. "It should be required driving for all thrillseekers."
The new route has not been officially proposed to regulatory agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Thorndycraft said. It would likely have to go through another lengthy environmental impact analysis.
But Thorndycraft said the mining operation has new capital to help it proceed with its endeavor, and that despite problems with financing last year, the company is looking at an aggressive exploration schedule now, with several test drills planned for the Atlanta area. Although the company originally planned to extract some 17 tons of microscopic gold from ore, Thorndycraft said the rising price of gold has added new value to the proposed mine.
"We have pretty big programs set this year," Thorndycraft said. The Canadian company that owns Atlanta Gold and the mining operation has begun to spin off its capital-intensive diamond mining projects that, Thorndycraft said, were dragging down the finances of the company. At one point, the money directed at the gold-mining operation was so limited that the company was having trouble paying contractors who were helping with the extensive permitting process.
"Occasionally, we just got caught with our pants down," Thorndycraft said. "That's over with now. It wasn't always economical before. We're looking at a project now that, tentatively, is going to be closer to $450 million of gross revenue that will come out of this project." The original gross revenue estimate, he said, was about $200 million.
The news did nothing to change the City of Boise's official opposition to the project. Mayor Dave Bieter and the Boise City Council announced their symbolic and nonbinding vote against the mine in early March.
"The resolution that was approved still stands," said Bieter spokeswoman Elizabeth Duncan. "Nothing changes."
That's especially true of the mine proposal itself, said John Robison, also with Idaho Conservation League, who described the James Creek road as a "white-knuckle" drive.
"Even if this were the safest route in Idaho, Atlanta Gold still plans to put a cyanide heap leach gold mine in our headwaters, upstream of our community," Robison said.
Atlanta Gold isn't without its troubles. Even though the company's Canadian holding corporation recently changed its name from Twin Mining Corporation to Atlanta Gold, it still faces a claim from its former CEO, Hermann Derbuch. According to stock market news site Real Time Traders, Derbuch is seeking $425,000 in promised advances from the company, which lists Bill Baird as "interim CEO" in its most recent public statements. In a separate news release, Twin Mining denied responsibility for the claimed amounts.