Send a Message in a Bottle to Stop The Proposed Mount St. Helens Mine

April 3, 2007

from Okanogan Highlands Bottling Company

The BLM and U.S. Forest Service recently released an Environmental Assessment outlining their preliminary decision to grant a lease to Idaho General Mines for land north of Mount St. Helens. This is the first step in a process that could result in a 3,000 acre copper mine within the blast zone of Mount St. Helens. Please take a moment now to "send a message in a bottle" or e-mail the BLM asking them not to grant this lease.

Submit Comments To:
U.S. Department of Interior BLM, Oregon State Office
Attn: Pat Geehan
P.O. Box 2965
Portland, OR 97208

E-mail: Eric_Hoffman@or.blm.gov

Talking Points:

1) The Trust for Public Lands obtained this land and turned it over to the Forest Service for the purpose of protecting it from mining. The BLM and Forest Service should therefore honor this fact and not lease the land to a mining company.

2) By investing time, money, and resources into this mining proposal, the federal government will create institutional momentum that will be difficult to stop when it comes time to decide whether or not to permit the mine.

3) The only criteria the BLM and Forest Service are obligated to consider when deciding whether to grant this lease is the public interest. With thousands of individual and organizational letters, city resolutions, and letters from elected officials all opposing the granting of this lease, it is clear that the public interest is best served by denying this lease.

4) Granting of this lease will open the door to eventual mine development and the federal government must assess the likely impacts from such development.

A large copper mine at the edge of the Mount St. Helens blast zone and in a seismically active region poses a serious risk of releasing toxins that could devastate threatened fish runs and contaminate community drinking water supplies downstream. Moreover, a mine will likely impact ancient forests, the Tumwater Inventory Roadless Area, and popular recreation areas.

5) The Green River valley is a unique and special place and a 3,000 acre copper mine is not appropriate. Please deny the lease to Idaho General Mines.

Background:

The BLM and U.S. Forest Service are proposing to lease 217 acres of the approximately 900 acres the mining company was hoping to lease, while leaving the option for leasing the remaining 600 + acres for a later date. They are not currently allowing any activity on the ground and are requiring the mining company to apply for a permit (which will require a new environmental review) for exploration. After the mining company conducts exploration, they will be required to apply for a final permit (which will require another environmental review) for actual mine development. With your help, this mine proposal won’t get that far. You can view the Environmental Assessment at www.blm.gov/or/index.php .

Summary of key issues

* Idaho General Mines (IGMI), out of Spokane, WA, hopes to develop a 3,000 acre mine to extract copper, gold, molybdenum, and silver in the Green River valley below Goat Mountain, which lies just north and east of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

* Much of the lease area under consideration was purchased by the USFS from the Trust for Public Lands using Land and Water Conservation Funds which are appropriated by Congress to be used for recreation and conservation purposes, not for mining!

* The lease area enters the Tumwater Inventoried Roadless Area, an area intended for protection under President Clinton’s 2001 Roadless Rule. It is unclear at this time whether Clinton’s rule would prevent mining of the type envisioned by Idaho General Mines.

    Water Quality & Human Health Impacts:

* The bedrock in the Green River valley is such that when it is exposed to air and water during mining, a chemical process called acid mine drainage could occur, leaching sulfuric acid and other highly toxic substances into surrounding water bodies. Once this chemical process begins, it can last for thousands of years and could cost many millions of dollars to manage.

* A dam that would likely be constructed to hold back stored waste material, such as cyanide and arsenic, could fail in the seismically active region, releasing in a flash tons of toxic substances into the Green River.

* The Green River eventually flows into the Cowlitz River where it is withdrawn for agricultural and municipal water supplies.

* The Green River is spawning habitat for listed salmon and steelhead. Acid mine drainage and other toxic releases could significantly harm and potentially destroy these fish populations. At least 20 miles of new road construction in an area with unstable soils, moreover, would add smothering sediment to area streams and rivers.

* Mine development could result in either a large open pit mine or an underground mine. Goat Mountain would be destroyed by an open pit mine. Underground mining would result in surface rock collapsing in on the mine, damaging surface features such as ancient forests and changing the flow of surface streams and ground water. Either approach could result in a mine that penetrates so deep that it impacts the ground water, altering the flow—potentially dewatering popular lakes and streams in the area, impacting both humans and wildlife.

    Recreation & Other Impacts:

* Developing a mine in the Green River valley would impact recreation destinations such as the Goat Mountain Trail and the Green River Horse Camp, a popular destination for backcountry horse enthusiasts. In close proximity are popular ancient forest hikes and mountain lakes.

* Other impacts from the mine include the use of huge quantities of water and energy, air quality concerns due to the creation of large amounts of toxic dust, the construction of a sewage treatment facility for the hundreds of workers employed at the mine, and impacts from a polluting smelter that would process the extracted materials.

    Socioeconomic Impacts:

* The mine would likely only be in operation for approximately 5-30 years, until the minerals are depleted or market prices drop. The mine would then close, leaving surrounding communities with high unemployment rates and possibly leaving taxpayers with many millions of dollars in environmental cleanup.

* Much of the labor for the mine would likely be brought in from outside the region, requiring the construction of schools and other infrastructure to accommodate them. This infrastructure would then be a burden on the surrounding communities when the mine closes.

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