The U.S. Forest Service has granted approval to a controversial proposal which would open up a portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for exploratory mining.
After giving preliminary approval back in August, the USFS has officially given the go-ahead to Ascot USA’s exploratory mining operations in an area located approximately 12 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. But Cowlitz Valley District Ranger Gar Abbas made it clear that the USFS’s approval is not actually for a mine, but rather for prospecting or exploration. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management will now be responsible for granting Ascot’s permits, if they choose to do so.
Ascot intends to search the upper Green River Valley at Goat Mountain for gold, copper, and molybdenum. Since being recognized as an official elements in the 1700s, molybdenum has been used for countless purposes over the last 200 years. Ascot also plans to look for other minerals during the exploration. Ascot would like to drill up to 63 roadside exploration holes, each measuring two to three inches in diameter, to search for the valuable elements.
The Cascade Forest Conservancy reports that more than 20 conservation and recreation groups oppose the exploration. The proposal is seen as highly controversial, since the area is used for camping, hunting, and horseback riding. The nearby Green River has also been declared twice as one of the most endangered rivers in the country by the American Rivers organization. In addition, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe has expressed numerous concerns for the plant and animal life in the area, adding that the tribe should have a say in permit conditions.
Even politicians are entering the fray to speak out against the project. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, noted in a statement:
“Opening the door to drilling at the edge of Mount St. Helens is a short-sighted decision that undervalues the important benefits these public spaces offer both to our booming recreation economy and to families who come from near and far to enjoy their beauty,” explained Cantwell. “This mountain should be managed for current and future generations to enjoy, and I hope the Trump administration will cease their efforts to jeopardize that by allowing it to be explored for drilling.”
The Bureau of Land Management has published a modified environmental assessment of the proposed exploration, which can be found online. It’s not clear whether BLM will grant permits to Ascot that will allow them to follow through with their plans.