Still the serious threat of strip mining

The company has applied to the U.S. Forest Service to begin exploratory drilling and could find other sources of water for test drilling, including hauling the water in trucks.

“I wish it could mean that it is totally done, but it’s not,” said Grant Werschkull, the executive director of the Smith River Alliance, in Crescent City. “There is still the serious threat of strip mining. This foreign company has claims in that part of the headwaters of the Smith and also in the adjacent headwaters of the Illinois.”

Nickel mining is well known for leaving environmental scars, including several Superfund sites. This type of hard rock mining is the largest source of toxic pollution in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Red Flat Nickel Corp. proposes to begin drilling above Baldface Creek southeast of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Klamath Mountains of southwest Oregon to determine whether a full-scale mining operation would be economically feasible. It is one of several large mining claims by the company on nearly 10,000 acres of sensitive watershed lands in the area, including a connected tributary called Rough and Ready Creek, which flows in the opposite direction from Baldface into the Illinois River.

The problem is, steelhead trout, chinook and coho salmon spawn in both Baldface Creek and the Smith, a National Wild and Scenic River that also provides Crescent City and the surrounding communities with drinking water.

Local politicians, homeowners, fishermen, environmental groups and American Indian tribes have opposed the plan. They fear toxic runoff just across the state line will pollute downstream locations, including the Smith River National Recreation Area and Redwood National and State Parks.

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