Gold pit mine planned at Elk City, Idaho. Alert

Elk City is a very remote small town in north central, Idaho. It is 40 miles up the South Fork of the Clearwater River Canyon from Grangeville (no facilities between them). Despite its remote location, the local streams were badly damaged by placer mining years ago.

Mining companies don’t placer mine much any more. They have moved to pit mines and cyanide heap leaching.


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A Canadian mining company is proposing an open-pit cyanide heap leach mine in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Clearwater River. The Buffalo Gulch mine would be on Bureau of Land Management land just west of Elk City.

The Canadian mining company is using a flawed mine plan from the 1980s. Every major open-pit cyanide leach mine in Montana that used this same design ended up contaminating water supplies with cyanide or other toxins.

Main Points

  • This project is a threat to one of Idaho’s most precious resources: clean drinking water.
  • The mine would be only a few hundred feet from local drinking water wells and tributaries to the South Fork of the Clearwater River, an important salmon and steelhead stream.
  • If cyanide or diesel fuel were to leak into a stream or spill in a truck accident along the river, it could have devastating impacts on clean water and fisheries. The Bureau of Land Management must address transportation of hazardous chemicals.
  • The mining company must update its outdated mine plan in response to recent accidents at other mines.

What You Can Do

Submit comments to the Bureau of Land Management by September 15! You can email your comments or send them to

Stephanie Connolly, Field Manager
Cottonwood Field Office
1 Butte Drive
Cottonwood, ID 83522-5200

For More Info

Go to the Bureau of Land Management website to read about the Buffalo Gulch mining project.

Contact John Robison at John Robinson or 208.345.6933 x13.

The Idaho Conservation League preserves Idaho’s clean water, wilderness and quality of life.






  1. Monty Avatar

    A Nevada gold mine was closed down due to excessive pollution so does this mean that this new gold mine proposal is not going to pollute? Is there such a thing as “lessions learned”? Before “virgin country” is opened for mining, should mining companies be required to “get it right” in previous unprotected areas? What are the “lessions learned” in Nevada?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The process of the two mines is quite different, but both will cause serious pollution if not done correctly.

    Note how potential polluters almost always say, “this is no problem when done correctly.”

    You would think cyanide heap-leaching would be a red flag. Yes, they do neutralize the cyanide after it has passed through the ore, but accidents do happen (often).

    Elk City, Idaho is remote, but hardly pristine, having had an abusive mining history in days gone by.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan