The U.S. Forest Service has given the go-ahead for exploratory drilling for an open-pit gold mine west of Yellowstone National Park.
Kilgore Gold Exploration Project in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Clark County, was permitted by the government. Excellon Resources Inc., located in Toronto, Ontario, owns Excellon Idaho.
Located in the Dubois Ranger District of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, about five miles northwest of Kilgore, Idaho, the Kilgore Gold Exploration Project is proposed by Excellon Idaho Gold. Currently, Excellon Idaho Gold’s petition to the US Forest Service solely involves mineral exploration by surface drilling and does not include commercial mining at any time. For the three to five years it will take to complete, the Project will be conducted in stages, with up to three drill rigs at any given time. However, active drilling will begin no earlier than July 15 of each year and continue until November 15 or December 15, if weather permits and the USFS consents. Surface disturbances that have not been entirely recovered are stabilized after each operational season to minimize seasonal impacts.
Due to federal court orders in 2019 and 2020, the Project was suspended. Instead of using Yellowstone cutthroat trout-free water, the new drilling strategy uses water from another stream. They estimate that 825,000 ounces of gold are present in the region. In an overview of its aims, the business states that it intends to extract gold by excavating an open-pit mine.
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The Forest Service would need to approve such a mine. In 2018, the Forest Service gave the go-ahead for the Project. An environmental group filed a lawsuit in November 2018, claiming that the exploratory drilling might damage groundwater and surface waters. As well as harming grizzly bears and whitebark pines, the organizations also claimed that the drilling would endanger Yellowstone cutthroat trout and the Columbia spotted frogs in the area.
It was determined that the exploratory drilling would not significantly endangered grizzly bears, whitebark pines, or Columbia spotted frogs. The Forest Service had not violated environmental regulations in making that determination.
An examination of the Dog Bone Ridge drainage, which is home to Yellowstone cutthroat trout, was deemed lacking by a court. Threats to the trout’s population or habitat make them a vulnerable species. For drilling at Dog Bone Ridge, the Forest Service has authorized a revised proposal to use Beaver Creek’s water instead of Coral Creek’s water. Excellon has also installed several monitoring stations in the Dog Bone Ridge area, according to the EPA.
At a total of 140 drill sites, the firm permitted 10 miles (16 kilometers) of additional roadways in 2018. There were ten drill sites constructed before the case. Therefore the Forest Service’s clearance on Friday is for 130 drill sites. The revised plan’s impact on the surface area is 22 acres.
In a statement, Josh Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, said the organization examined the Forest Service’s decision and kept its options available.