Nez Perce Tribe challenges air quality permit

The Nez Perce Tribe is challenging an air quality permit issued to operators of a proposed open-pit gold mine in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River.

The tribe, along with the Idaho Conservation League and Save the South Fork Salmon, petitioned the Idaho Board of Environmental Quality seeking to overturn a permit issued to Perpetua Resources Idaho. The company is working to reopen and expand the long-shuttered mine near Yellowpine where it hopes to extract gold and antimony and invest some of its profits into restoring the site that is releasing toxic chemicals into streams. While still in the permitting process, the company has been given permission to begin some of the cleanup work. The Department of Environmental Quality issued the company the permit in June.

The tribe and conservation groups contend that by allowing the company to emit dust that could contain arsenic and other particulate matter, the permit violates the Clean Air Act and state laws. Tribal chairperson Samuel N. Penney said in a news release that the permit fails to protect tribal members who have treaty rights to fish and hunt in the area, local communities and the environment from air pollution. The company counters that the permit is protective of people and the environment, requires extensive monitoring and that the mine is considered by DEQ to be a minor source of emissions. (Lewiston Tribune)

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