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Monthly Archives

January 2024

Empire Mine Update

By Conservation, Education, Regional and National

Friends and Supporters,

It has been a few months since our last update but rest assured that we have been monitoring the activities and all communications by Phoenix Copper as it relates to the proposed Empire Mine in Mackay, ID, including multiple conversations with the CEO of Phoenix Copper and ongoing contact with other members of management.

Phoenix Planning and Financing Process

As a reminder, there are multiple critical steps in the exploration, development, permitting, determining “Economic Feasibility” and filing of a Plan of Operations (PoO) before construction of a proposed mine like Empire can even be considered. There are also other important input and approvals required; local community input, formal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approval of the PoO including an Environmental Impact Statement. Ultimately, final financing “terms and conditions” can only be negotiated after these steps are in place and before actual operations can begin.

In a very recent email to Phoenix Copper about the status and expected completion date of all these critical steps, the CEO didn’t answer the direct questions, but said on November 20 that they “have had for some time …3 groups of investors seriously interested in investing in the project.” Statements and representations about the supposed $300 million financing have been made repeatedly since early 2023. Later in the day, Phoenix Copper formally announced the “Extension of Loan Facility” until December 8th. This $2 million working capital loan will simply enable them to keep their few employees, pay the rent and keep the office lights on.

Our Activities

In an earlier March 2022 Update, we stated that “…our real work will begin when Phoenix Copper/Konnex Resources resubmits its Plan of Operations”. The initial filing of a PoO, submitted in early 2021, was rejected by the BLM as “incomplete”. The Challis office of the BLM responded to us only a few days ago that “We have not received any updates on Konnex’s future. They have not resubmitted a revised PoO and it has been almost 2 years.”

Both Trout Unlimited (TU) and Idaho Conservation League (ICL) have continued to work closely together. TU completed an extensive water rights study of the Big Lost River (May 2023). Both groups have toured the Empire and Navarre Creek sites on the ground and more recently from the air thanks to the help of a nonprofit group called EcoFlight (See more here). ICL has also regularly and frequently been in contact with the BLM, US Forest Service and publicly taken an outspoken position in the Idaho Mountain Express and their own periodic newsletters regarding the importance of remediation practices following mine completion and ongoing monitoring.

We have also been monitoring developments in the Navarre Creek area, where Konnex began early-stage exploration drilling this summer under approval from the US Forest Service. Some of the new roads and drill pads constructed as part of this project were visible from our overflight of the area. We are keeping an eye on the project to ensure that reclamation of temporary roads and drill pads is done properly. It is unclear what the next step in this exploration will be, or where Konnex would obtain the water necessary to proceed with full-scale mining operations (if it ever progressed to that point).

Tom Blanchard, one of our supporters, former Blaine County Commissioner and Mining historian, provided a strong rebuttal directly to Phoenix Copper in the Idaho Mountain Express about mining reclamation activities. Josh Johnson, ICL’s Central Idaho Director publicly challenged a claim by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (Idaho Mountain Express, 9/15/23) about contamination of the Big Wood River from the Triumph Mine. His statement that “Unfortunately, Triumph is the gift that keeps giving, reminding us that we need to make sure mining companies are held accountable”. His challenge to DEQ is relevant and ultimately directly applicable to any activities by Phoenix Copper.

Our Position

We will continue to stay the course following Phoenix Copper/Konnex closely and questioning them directly when necessary. We thank you for your early and ongoing support and will keep you informed.

Many Thanks,
Joe Chlebowski, Terry Ring, Mark Ullman, Tom Blanchard, Josh Johnson (ICL) and Michael Gibson (TU)

ICL Empire Mine
Phoenix Copper Website

Salmon Recovery and Dam Removal

By Conservation, Education, Regional and National

Thursday, December 14, the White House announced a true whole-of-government
commitment to restoring salmon. It includes massive commitments to invest in the
infrastructure reimbursements which are necessary to replace the services provided by
the four lower Snake River dams.

Credit must go to our own Congressman Simpson. He originally identified the range of
economic and societal winners and losers that benefit or are damaged by the existing 4
Lower Snake River Dams. He proposed a comprehensive plan to “moth-ball” the dams
and compensate/replace the benefits the dams are delivering in Idaho and Washington.

Trout Unlimited has thrown its full weight behind the campaign to deactivate the 4 dams.

Now the Biden administration has picked up the mission. The current proposal is for
Tribally-led renewable energy development, enhanced rail infrastructure to get grain to
market without relying on dams and barges, and infrastructure to support the fish
population. This puts us on the pathway to decommission the four dams.
And it’s more than just that – this is a pathway to restoring salmon to true abundance
throughout the Snake and Columbia Basin, protecting orca, and honoring our
commitments to Tribes.

This is a big deal. There will also be a chorus of objections from those that want to cling
to the status quo. For example, the State of Idaho has already said it will sue to block
these steps forward.

This announcement is the result of years of hard work by many. Credit especially goes
to the Idaho Conservation League which has pushed the issue within the broader
environmental community, working with other NGOs and Tribes from all across the

The announcement today means that the work shifts to implementing the dam removal
and get our salmon back. There is finally a clear path forward for our salmon. We all
need to support it and push it.

Written by Nick Miller, TUH Chapter President

If you want to know more on this very important issue please visit ICL or follow this LINK  to Patagonia Action Works to take a deep dive.