The Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho has sued three US federal agencies over the approval of Golden Meadows exploration project by a Canadian company Midas Gold, citing non-compliance of federal environmental laws.
The lawsuit filed in US District Court with the Idaho Conservation League, alleges that the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service failed to conduct in-depth environmental assessments before permitting Midas Gold a three-year exploration grant.
According to the lawsuit, during the project period, the company will perform about 43,800 one-way vehicle trips through the zigzag roads near the South Fork of the Salmon River and two of its tributaries, Johnson Creek and the East Fork of Salmon River, reported AP.
Nez Perce claimed that increased truck traffic and possible fuel spills could potentially impact upon the streams containing fish listed under the Endangered Species Act, such as the chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.
However, the Forest Service approved the plans, claiming that the project wouldn't cause any significant impact.
The tribe further alleged that the Golden Meadows project violates the 1855 treaty it has with the US, that provides tribal members with rights for fishing, hunting, and other rights on lands in and bordering the reservation.
The lawsuit claims that the National Environmental Protection Act requires the Forest Service to undertake critical evaluation of projects impact on the environment, which the agency failed to do.
Midas Gold has planned to drill about 178 exploratory holes in 26 areas, with the aim to determine the feasibility of creating three open pit gold mines.