Midas Gold’s Stibnite Gold Project Continues to Advance
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Dec. 04, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Midas Gold Corp. (MAX:TSX / MDRPF:OTCQX) reported today that the U.S. Forest Service (“USFS”) has indicated that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for the Stibnite Gold Project (“Project”) in Valley County, Idaho, will be made available for public review in January 2020. Midas Gold Idaho continues to work closely with federal and state regulators to ensure that the permitting process remains on track. The USFS also anticipates issuing a Final EIS and Draft Record of Decision (“ROD”) in Q4 2020 and the Final ROD for the Project in Q1 2021. The USFS, as lead agency working in cooperation with the six other federal, state and local agencies responsible for permitting the Project, provided an indication of the timeline as part of a regular update on the Project.
“The USFS and cooperating agencies continue to advance the regulatory review of the Stibnite Gold Project and, in January 2020, the public will be able to begin commenting on our proposed redevelopment and restoration of this historical mining area,” said Laurel Sayer President & CEO of Midas Gold Idaho. “After years of thorough analysis and review, we are much closer to fully realizing the benefits of the Stibnite Gold Project. Through redevelopment of a brownfields site, this Project is designed to restore fish habitat, reconnect salmon to their native spawning grounds and address numerous legacy impacts from historical mining activities to improve water quality. If permitted, we will bring hundreds of well-paying jobs to rural Idaho and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the state while bringing environmental restoration to a long-abandoned mine site. We want to see all of this happen and we will continue to work closely with regulators to meet the Project timeline.” Joint Review ProcessSeven federal, state and local agencies involved in permitting the Project signed the Stibnite Joint Review Process Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) in 2017, committing to work together to evaluate the Plan of Restoration and Operations (“PRO”) for the Project under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). The MOU was designed so agencies could collaborate in the review and preparation of the EIS, meet the requirements of the public process and follow a mutually agreed upon schedule. Agency cooperation and collaboration remains key to the timeliness and completeness of the process.Permitting Process & ScheduleThe PRO was accepted as complete by the USFS in December 2016, and the USFS conducted Public Scoping in June and July of 2017. Since that time, the USFS, their contractor AECOM, and other cooperating agencies have continued with their review of the PRO, baseline data and public comments, defining potential alternatives and analyzing them, and reviewing additional information they requested and which Midas Gold Idaho has provided. In response to agency comments and, based on results of modelling performed by Midas Gold Idaho, Midas Gold Idaho modified a number of Project components to reduce Project footprint, improve water quality and enhance habitat. This modified PRO (“ModPRO”) is being considered alongside other alternatives being assessed by the regulators under NEPA.Under NEPA, regulators need to ensure that they meet the regulatory requirements to support a robust and defensible Record of Decision. During the review process, regulators filed 127 requests for additional information (“RFAI”) and have submitted multiple additional requests for clarification to Midas Gold Idaho to ensure the thoroughness of the environmental impact analysis and to aid in their careful consideration of the proposed plan and various alternative development scenarios, including those set out in the ModPRO.“Our team is working hard to design, permit and build a modern mining project that can be profitable and have a positive impact on the local community and environment,” said Laurel Sayer, CEO of Midas Gold Idaho. “The review by the USFS is comprehensive and thorough and will help make our project better. In fact, through the permitting process, we have been able to identify multiple refinements to our initial proposal that reduce the Project impact and improve environmental outcomes, including those detailed in the modified PRO. We are proud of the work we have completed and look forward to moving into the next phase of permitting.”Next Steps in the Regulatory ProcessThe Draft EIS is the culmination of a thorough environmental analysis and assessment of multiple alternatives, which is required by NEPA. Once the Draft EIS is released, which the USFS has indicated should take place in January 2020, there will be a minimum of a 45-day public comment period as required by NEPA. Immediately following the public comment period, the USFS and cooperating agencies will respond to all comments and produce the Final EIS and a Draft ROD, which is anticipated to occur in Q4 2020. Upon publication of the Final EIS, there would be a period for objections and resolution before a Final ROD is published. The Final ROD is now anticipated in Q1 2021. A positive final decision would allow Midas Gold Idaho to seek the issuance of the final permits that are dependent on the ROD being issued. Additional details on the schedule will be announced by the USFS on or about January 2, 2020. Feasibility Study StatusMidas Gold Idaho’s technical team and consultants continue to advance the feasibility study for the Project; the study will be completed following the issuance of the Draft EIS, to ensure that Project components included in the Draft EIS are addressed in the study. While substantially all of the work related to mineral resource estimation, metallurgy, ore processing, geotechnical, tailings management, mining, surface and ground water management, infrastructure (including access road, powerline, tunnel, and worker housing) and other aspects of the Project needed to support a feasibility study are well advanced, finalization of the design, capital and operating costs, and the technical report, are awaiting completion of various ongoing optimization studies and publication of the Draft EIS.As previously disclosed, the feasibility study will incorporate the results of a number of Project optimizations, including updated mineral resource estimates, results of optimized metallurgy and processing, optimized layout and plant design, and other considerations. A number of these optimizations are focused on reducing potential environmental effects and impacts from mine redevelopment, reducing technical risks, and to enhance the restoration of the site to ensure a healthy, sustainable ecosystem during and after operations. The extended permitting schedule has provided the opportunity to undertake value engineering exercises and third-party reviews that would typically be completed after a feasibility study. The results of these processes have led to optimization and risk reduction in various aspects of the Project, including: the process flowsheet; plant layout; mine planning, scheduling and stockpiling; and sitewide water management.Litigation UpdateAs announced on June 7, 2019, Midas Gold reported that it and its subsidiaries were advised by the Nez Perce Tribe (“Tribe”) that it intended to initiate legal action against the Corporation and its subsidiaries related to water quality impacts due to historical mining activity prior to Midas Gold’s and its subsidiaries involvement with the site. The Tribe subsequently filed the legal action in the U.S. District Court of Idaho on August 8, 2019 and the Corporation and its subsidiaries are defending against the litigation, filing several responses to the allegations requesting the Federal court to stay the proceedings while negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the Idaho Department of environmental Quality (“IDEQ”) and the USFS are proceeding on an agreement to further address site conditions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). The Corporation and its subsidiaries are also requesting the Federal Court to dismiss the action. Should such an agreement be concluded, the Tribe’s lawsuit is required to be dismissed under CERCLA.Neither Midas Gold nor its subsidiaries caused the current water quality issues at the site. Neither Midas Gold nor its subsidiaries have ever conducted any mining operations at site and therefore have no control or responsibility for any pollutant discharges on the site. Midas Gold’s subsidiaries’ actions on the Project site have been limited to studying current mineral resource potential and environmental conditions in the Stibnite Mining District, evaluating the optimal solutions for remediation and restoration and presenting those solutions to the governmental agencies with appropriate regulatory authority as part of an integrated redevelopment plan for the site. Midas Gold’s subsidiaries have routinely and regularly communicated with environmental regulators on the issue of the site’s water quality. Midas Gold’s subsidiaries have regularly reported to the Federal and State regulators current information on the condition of surface and groundwater and are working closely with the IDEQ and the EPA to gain permission to take further action and learn more about the specific causes of degraded water quality.Midas Gold continues to believe that the best solution for the site is for all stakeholders to work together to implement the comprehensive reclamation and restoration of the numerous legacy issues around the site, funded through cash flow from the redevelopment of the site as a modern mining operation.Stibnite Gold Project Permitting BackgroundA detailed presentation on the PRO can be found at www.midasgoldcorp.com. Details of previous news releases and technical studies can be found filed under Midas Gold’s profile on SEDAR (www.sedar.com) or at www.midasgoldcorp.com.