The U.S. Forest Service announced that it has approved Idaho CuMo Mining Corp’s request to conduct exploratory drilling about 55 miles northeast of Boise, ID to determine if molybdenum, copper and silver exist in sufficient quantities to go forward with an openpit mine.
Idaho CuMo Mining, a Canadian company, plans include building about 10 miles of roads and up to 137 drill pads for up to 259 drill holes, The Associated Press reported.
Boise National Forest Supervisor Cecilia Seesholtz released the decision on a supplemental Environmental Assessment that found no significant impact with the project.
The agency said the company wants to start drilling this fall within about 3,000 acres in the Boise National Forest, but didn't have an exact date.
The company on its website says samples taken in the area indicate more than 6 billion tons of molybdenum, copper, silver and tungsten that it estimates are worth close to $100 billion. The company said that if approved, the mine during construction would create as many as 5,000 jobs. It also said that the mine would create 1,000 jobs for 100 years during production.
Environmental groups have been fighting the proposed mine, contending it will lead to pollution of the Boise River headwaters.
Following a lawsuit, a federal court in 2012 ordered the Forest Service to complete a supplemental Environmental Analysis, which ultimately culminated in the agency approving the exploratory drilling this week.
"This proposed exploratory drilling project has involved extensive environmental reviews and I am pleased we could work with the objectors to resolve many of the issues," Seeholtz said in a statement. "My goal is to work with all parties to make this a viable and environmentally sound exploration project."
John Robison, public lands director for the Idaho Conservation League, said the group is examining its legal options.
Federal officials say that if the company decides it wants to mine it will have to submit another proposal that will require a separate environmental analysis.