Another roadblock for Blue River’s project in Washington state

Blue River Resources’ Mazama Copper Project in Washington’s Methow Valley is facing yet another challenge.

This time, the U.S. Forest Service is taking a central role in supporting the Methow Headwaters campaign, which is run by a coalition of 2,000 residents, 130 local businesses, and other organizations and aims at fighting the possibility of future copper mining in the upper Methow Valley.

Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of the Forest Service, said the federal agency plans to start working on an administrative withdrawal of 340,000 acres of federal land, which would prevent new mineral exploration and mining for up to 20 years.

As explained by Methow Valley News, under the current mining law the Forest Service doesn’t have the authority to deny mineral claims holders the right to explore for and develop mineral resources on federal lands. However, the agency can set requirements to mitigate potential environmental impacts and the first step to doing so is applying for an administrative withdrawal to the Bureau of Land Management.

The fact that the FS already made this decision in regards to Blue River’s project in the Okanogan County puts the Canadian company’s plans on hold. The firm has been wanting to develop 15 drill targets to confirm and expand the historic resource of 149 million tons grading 0.36% copper in the Mazama area.

And this isn’t the first delay the Vancouver-based miner has had to deal with. Although they filed for a drilling permit in 2013, a decision hasn’t been made because the Forest Service has been busy dealing with wildfires and, at the same time, concerns raised by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation halted any possible ruling.

On top of this, the Forest Service official said that her office supports a legislation introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray — the “Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016” (S. 2991)– which would permanently make federal lands in Okanogan County off-limits to mining. The bill aims at protecting water, salmon, grizzly bears, and other natural resources in the valley’s upper watershed, and it has also been endorsed by Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee.  

By publication time, Blue River had not released an official statement regarding this recent development.