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Miner drops controversial plan to use suction dredge in the Salmon River

The hobbist miner from Grangeville whose permit use a suction dredge in search of gold and garnets in the Salmon River prompted a lawsuit against the state now says he'd decided not to dredge there afer all. “I declined to do that mineral lease a few weeks ago … because there is no gold in the river where I was dredging,” Conklin told The Lewiston Tribune in a story published today. 

Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League said the ICL's attorneys are reviewing whether to continue pursuing the lawsuit now that Conklin has nixed his mining plans. “We continue to have questions as to whether the Land Board appropriately followed state law,” Oppenheimer said. “On behalf of the anglers, local businesses and scientists who spoke up for the Salmon River, we appreciate that Mr. Conklin has reconsidered his plans.” Click below for a full report from the Associated Press and the Lewiston Tribune.


Hobbyist miner backs off Salmon River dredge plans

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A hobbyist miner from Grangeville is backing away from plans to use a suction dredge in a quest for gold and garnets along the riverbed of the Salmon River.

Mike Conklin, who was awarded a lease last month to dredge a section of the river, said he's abandoning the idea because previous exploration in the area proved it a waste of time.

“I declined to do that mineral lease a few weeks ago … because there is no gold in the river where I was dredging,” Conklin told The Lewiston Tribune in a story published Thursday (http://bit.ly/QwZLoP ). “I'm not mining there and had no intention to after I tested it for a couple of years.”

Conklin has also advised the Idaho Department of Lands of his intentions to reject the state's lease, according to a copy of a letter from a deputy attorney general and obtained by The Associated Press.

Conklin was awarded an exclusive, five-year lease by the Idaho Land Board to suction dredge a half-mile stretch of the river about 13 miles downstream of Riggins.

Approval of the lease came amid objections from environmentalists and anglers who argued the operation would damage migrating habitat for salmon and steelhead and create hazards for anglers.

Last week, environmentalists pursued their case in state court. The Idaho Conservation League and other groups want a judge to require that the state approve a reclamation plan before signing off on any suction dredge projects on Idaho streams and rivers. The lawsuit claims Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other land board members ignored laws designed to protect Idaho's water, arguing that miners who use gasoline-powered suction dredges often leave holes in the riverbed and cause other problems.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, an activist for ICL, said attorneys are reviewing whether to continue pursuing the lawsuit now that Conklin has nixed his mining plans. State lawyers are asking ICL and the other parties to the lawsuit to drop the case.

“We continue to have questions as to whether the Land Board appropriately followed state law,” Oppenheimer said Thursday. “On behalf of the anglers, local businesses and scientists who spoke up for the Salmon River, we appreciate that Mr. Conklin has reconsidered his plans.”

Conklin disputes claims that his mining activity poses a problem or threat to fish, anglers and water quality. He also said he's not the only person who takes part in small-scale mining on the river between Riggins and White Bird.

“There is nothing that is going on down there that is hurting anything,” he told the newspaper.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources issued about 700 permits last year to recreational miners who use small suction dredges to search for gold in Idaho rivers and streams. The permits are issued without public notice.

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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