Garden Valley – The recent meeting presentation in Garden Valley involving the Exploration Project of CuMo Mining and the Forest Service was well attended. In the Crouch Community Hall, stations were set up by various Forest Service departments to offer a place for questions to be answered by specialists in the fields of botany, geology, fisheries and more. CuMo mining is still in its exploration stages which may take years to complete.
Once there is a decision to have a mine, then the exploration project would turn into evaluating a mine. This requires a lot of information to determine an actual mine, according to Forest Service Minerals Program Manager, Rick Wells. The Forest Service has the job to make sure that the drilling information of a viable mine is determined. As Wells sees it, “This is to make sure that the mine will not get to a point that they say it is not good enough economically and the whole project pulls out.”
Copper and copper oxide is on top of a deposit which is a clue to consider further exploration for molybdenum. “As they drill into the rock they are looking at so many things,” says Wells, “and CuMo has to know what they need to get out of the samples to make sure the mine is cost effective.”
CuMo is doing this exploration for the mine to move forward. The core drilling goes down up to 2,000 feet. The plan allows for 256 drill holes and 122 drill pads in the project area. Wells explains that the mine will need to show confidence to investors that the return on investment is worth it and after a market analysis is done.
The Forest Service is aware of mixed messages that the mine is close to starting up. Despite grandiose ideas and marketing, Wells is quick to explain, “People should understand the mine is many years down the road. Much more analysis and documentation of exploration needs to take place before a mine can happen. We look at everything and put that model together.”
In Well’s opinion, “[CuMo] just does not have what they need to do what they are saying they are doing and would like to do.” He says, “As a geologist, based on what we know, every drill is looked at and learn from that. The sample drilling is a process to tell where they need to go to the next drill hole and complete a 3D map of where deposits are found. A lot is still needed to make a mining determination.”
Underground water aquifers have not been found in the project area. Idaho Department of Water Resources would evaluate and control the drilling if there was underground water reached. Drilling logs have not shown water, otherwise drilling in an area would stop.
The Pioneer Fire had an impact on the exploration and updates were made to on documentation. The plants on the project site are under scrutiny after the fire. Botanists have been looking at the tiny Sacajawea’s Bitteroot plant. Plants were discovered in the project area and once considered rare. Many more plant locations have been in a ten-mile area that borders the entire project site. The plant may not be rare but Jennifer Brickey, Boise National Forest Ecologist, explained, “The plant still needs lots of study to determine how it reproduces since very little is known about it.” The plant appears for only a couple of weeks after snow recedes. Brickey also said, “They seem to like high mountain areas that are open ridgetops”. Tetra Tech, an independent firm, will also have reports on the plant.
Other studies of plant and fisheries are covered in the exploration phase. The core drilling times are determined to make sure there is not an effect on spawning or other wildlife birthing periods. Planning is crucial to continuing evaluations.
All documentation is being posted on the Forest Service website. Wells explains, “It is my job is to make sure mining will be done responsibly. This is the reason for the Exploration phase is taking a long time. Specialist look at things and scrutinize. Public meetings help to answer questions. We don’t want to miss anything and be as thorough as we can. Facts are based on science, not emotions or opinions.”
Once exploration is completed, then the mine project might be able to begin. “The mining phase will take many additional years to complete because there would need to be an environmental impact statement. Basically a whole new set of work would start before a mine could even think of opening”, according to Wells. “Right now, the only thing we can talk about is the drilling.”