Redband trout habitat in southern Idaho could improve if the results of a study reveal opportunities to enhance conditions in Jordan Creek near the past-producing DeLamar gold and silver project about 100 miles from Boise.
Development-stage mining company Integra Resources joined with conservation organization Trout Unlimited to evaluate and prioritize potential future habitat reclamation projects in the watershed. A study is expected to be completed this fall after the groups signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year.
“This partnership with Trout Unlimited complements Integra’s commitment to minimizing unnecessary impacts within the DeLamar Project boundaries and seeking opportunities to offset them with positive habitat impacts in our surrounding areas,” according to an Integra Resources news release. “This partnership also highlights the importance of collaboration when cleaning up legacy abandoned mine land sites in the west ….”
Antiquated mining practices during the late 1800s and early 1900s affected Jordan Creek. Mining began there in 1863, and in modern times was put on care and maintenance in 1998.
Integra Resources acquired the project in 2017 and is in the permitting process to restart mining operations at the site. The site includes 5,300 acres of patented and unpatented claims and 4,100 acres of leased lands, according to the Integra Resources website. Historically, the mine produced 1.6 million ounces of gold and 100 million ounces of silver.
Former Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch: Otter became a director of the company, which he says will create jobs and a greater interest in mining.
“As that project continues to grow and expand out there,” he said in an Integra Resources video covering the DeLamar project, “it’s going to be a big player in the overall picture of mining in Idaho, so it will be a big part of our overall economy.
Integra Resources hopes to minimize “unnecessary impacts within the DeLamar Project boundaries and seeking opportunities to offset them with positive habitat impacts in our surrounding areas,” the company stated.
Focusing on the healthy habitat of cold-water fisheries across the United States is TU, which allies with landowners, agencies, nonprofits, municipalities and mining companies in its conservation efforts.
“Mining companies have resources, and TU has abandoned mine clean-up expertise,” said TU Western Water and Habitat Program Director Warren Colyer in an email.
The organization’s work in this project will involve “a combination of existing data compilation and field work to assess habitat and flow conditions, water quality and fish passage barriers,” Colyer said. “This is an information gathering exercise that is intended to uncover opportunities to improve conditions for native redband trout [and other native fish and terrestrial species] in Jordan Creek and its tributaries.”
Remedies could include projects such as replacing road culverts that act as barriers to fish migrations with open-bottom arches or small bridges, TU stated. Future projects could also include aquatic organism and fish passage barrier identification, reclamation of mining-impacted lands, source reduction of pollutants from historic mills and in-stream habitat improvements, Integra Resources stated.
Colyer also said that TU would be looking for opportunities to partner with others to clean up abandoned mines and their pollution impacts, and to restore degraded habitat.
“Our partnerships with mining companies are good fits because we have a shared interest in places like Jordan Creek,” Colyer wrote. “Abandoned mines, in particular, are great opportunities for partnership because they impact native fish (TU’s perspective) and also can sometimes reflect poorly on mining. Today’s mining companies are usually eager to show that they do things differently and are even willing to help clean up some of the legacy impacts from historical mining.”
TU has partnerships with phosphate mines in southeastern Idaho to restore habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the Blackfoot River, and with Newmont Corp. Freeport-McMoRan and Kinross Gold Corp., “all of whom support our work to reclaim abandoned mines and clean up western streams,” Colyer wrote.
The overarching goal of the project, according to Integra Resources, which did not respond to request for comment, is to “holistically look at upper Jordan Creek to identify potential projects that will improve the environmental health of the watershed.”