An Australian mining company will conduct exploratory drilling this summer on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests near the Canadian border.
MMG Ltd. is looking for zinc deposits in the Hall Mountain area, said Sally Cox, the company’s general manager for stakeholder relations.
MMG plans to drill three holes for taking core samples this summer, she said. The work is expected to start in July.
Jason Kirchner, a Forest Service spokesman, described the drilling as a relatively small-scale project. Each of the drill holes will be about six inches in diameter, extending as deep as 2,000 feet. The company is required to plug the holes afterward.
Company officials are anticipating three to five years of exploratory drilling to assess the area’s mineral deposits, Kirchner said. If MMG decides to pursue permits for a mine, it would be required to go through an extensive environmental review process, he said.
Even though this summer’s operations are limited, the work has attracted lots of public interest, Kirchner said.
The drilling will take place within habitat for federally protected grizzly bears. The Idaho Conservation League initially filed an objection to the project, raising concerns that mechanical sounds from the drilling operations could keep bears from using critical habitat.
However, the league met with company officials, who agreed to use physical sound barriers to reduce how far the noise travels. That satisfied the Idaho Conservation League’s concerns about impacts on grizzlies, said John Robison, the nonprofit’s public lands director.
The drilling area is about two miles south of the Canadian border and three miles east of State Highway 1. MMG did earlier mineral surveys in the area, but that work involved surface samples.
MMG Ltd. is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. The company has mining operations in Australia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Laos.