As the miners hunt for clean energy minerals, the tribes fear a repetition of the past
Perpetua would vastly increase the base of the mine and dig three pits hundreds of feet deep. It would divert streams and a river which, according to analysis by environmental critics, could potentially damage more than 20 percent of the area’s salmon and trout habitat. (The company denies these assessments, saying that by restoring damaged rivers it would actually increase the salmon’s habitat.) The Environmental Protection Agency said the mine could cause mercury pollution and long-term contamination of streams and groundwater.
On-site mining machines will crush millions of tons of ore and then use cyanide to extract the gold. The waste, a contaminated sludge from 100 million tons of earth and water, is stored in a mountain valley behind a 450 meter high rock dam. Perpetua says it’s a safe design, reinforced by liner and a giant rock pillar, but a spill or leak could harm sensitive fish populations and cause long-term environmental damage.
To transport thousands of construction workers, miners, and relief crews over winding, rutted dirt roads to a remote location, Perpetua plans to build a new road on the edge of the pristine wilderness. Heavy trucks will make 65 trips a day for years to come. Some residents, who have watched motorists lose control and tumble down the mountains while their trucks landed in the streams, say they were appalled by the environmental impact of a roadside accident.
A lobbying campaign in Washington
Perpetua has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars soliciting surrounding communities and polishing its image as a mining company that can help produce the technology to wean America off fossil fuels.
The company’s largest shareholder is billionaire investor John Paulson, a supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, but Perpetua has reached out to lobbyists in Washington via the gang. The company has spent $ 200,000 on Washington DC, lobbying, and engaging a former Obama energy officer and an advisor to former Senator Harry Reid, a powerful Nevada Democrat with deep ties to the mining industry.
The company has also made unusual efforts to build support among local communities. She put forward a plan to local officials that promised to provide grants from a nonprofit foundation she set up to support community projects, with the company adding more funding each time the project reached a new milestone – after receiving federal approval, after receipt of the final permits, after the start of construction and after the start of production.
Colby Nielsen, the McCall township council president, said many locals are opposed to the project and consider the company’s proposal to be inappropriate.