28 Aug KATU : Forest Service permits controversial drilling project near Mount St. Helens
PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management approved exploratory drilling permits for a foreign mining interest this week to search for minerals near Mount St. Helens.
Ascot Resources, a Canadian-based company, is drilling for copper, gold, silver and molybdenum, commonly used in metal alloys.
According to proposed plans, the company is authorized to drill 63 holes, approximately two to three inches in diameter at varying depths at a site known as the Mt. Margaret Deposit, a historic mining location.
The 900-acre site will be located near the Green River in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, outside of the Mount St. Helens National Monument boundary, approximately 12 miles from the mountain’s crater.
More than a dozen environmental groups, including Cascade Forest Conservancy, want the Forest Service to reconsider.
Cascade Forest Conservancy policy adviser Nicole Budine says the Green River Valley is an endangered ecosystem, sensitive to contamination and development.
“It’s only 12 miles from the crater and experiences frequent small earthquakes. Even if they do everything to standard, there is still a very high risk of failure,” Budine told KATU. “These are our public lands, this is our national monument, and it’s not a place for a hard rock mine.”
The Green River flows from Mount St. Helens to the Toutle River, which then joins the Cowlitz River.
Local residents said in a video the conservancy produced that they were worried small amounts of contamination would impact drinking water and wildlife, including steelhead trout. The conservancy said the fish are extremely susceptible to changes in water quality and pollution.
“It’s rare in the Pacific Northwest to find this unique beautiful environment where you can still experience recreation without anyone around,” Budine said. “To throw this source of clean water, this beautiful environment, this beautiful place and recreation away for foreign mining interests, is frustrating.”
According to its website, Ascot Resources previously drilled at the location in 2010. It stated the site was rich in minerals.
Cowlitz Valley District Ranger Gar Abbas acknowledged in the report that “there is a great deal of concern that this decision somehow makes the potential for future approval of a new mine in this area easier or more likely.”
Abbas went on to stress the permit is not for mining, but for exploratory drilling. If Ascot decides there are enough resources to make it financially viable to open a mine, they would have to go through an additional permitting process.
The decision opens a 45-day period for the public to object to the U.S. Forest Service’s draft decision.