The Threat: Copper Mining in the Upper Methow
In April 2014, a Canadian Company — Blue River Resources — filed for permits to conduct exploratory drilling for copper on Flagg Mountain on U.S. Forest Service land, at the north end of the Methow Valley. Under the antiquated 1872 mining law, any citizen or private company can stake such claims, and the agency must entertain and evaluate such proposals. The Methow Valley — especially farther west near Harts Pass—has a long history of mining, and Flagg Mountain has been explored several times historically, but not since the 1970s by the Quintana Company. Exploratory drilling is the first step to developing a large-scale, likely open-pit mine in the upper Methow.
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WHAT WE KNOW:
- The ore deposit is low-grade, estimated to produce approximately 1 billion pounds of copper as well as other rich minerals. The proposed exploratory drilling would confirm the size and value of the ore deposit.
- To mine such a deposit, would likely require an open-pit approach. The infrastructure required would impact a minimum of 3,000 acres—six square miles—of land in our narrow valley to accommodate the pit, waste rock, and other facilities.
- Blue River has actively staked claims on and near Flagg Mountain–60 since 2010.
- The impacts of industrial-scale mining are incompatible with the Methow Valley, its character, and economy. Full-scale mining will cause years of disruption to the area through increased heavy truck traffic and industrial activity, visual impacts, and disruption of wildlife and their habitat.
- Despite ongoing advances in techniques and required cleanup plans, accidents and spills that affect water quality are known to happen with devastating results, and ensuring required mitigation performance often falls short of commitments.
- The Forest Service has not issued a decision on the exploratory drilling for multiple reasons, including delays from two devastating wildfire seasons as well as cultural resource concerns from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.