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Empire Mine

By conservation & projects, Uncategorized

Empire Mine update from Mike Gibson August 2022

Greetings Hemingway TUers,

The Empire Mine proposed for Mackay in 2021 is a significant development for all fishermen and residents who use and occupy the the Big Lost River and its valley.

Below is the best current analysis to date of the status of the proposed mine-reopening as well as a list of serious issues that must be weighed before the mining operations are permitted.

Please see below for an important and timely update on the Empire Mine in Mackay from our friends that are monitoring the issue. As of yet the Managing Agencies have not launched a public scoping process on the issue, but will keep you informed of any opportunities to comment when they occur.

Nicholas Miller
Hemingway Chapter President

To Our Concerned Friends of Mackay and The Big Lost River,

You have likely seen recent communications from Phoenix Copper in both the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Mountain Express. Both pieces are intended to appeal at the highest level to readers to support the clean energy transition with American minerals, copper especially, while also following the standards for public companies in the Environmental, Sustainability and Governance areas. These are very appropriate goals BUT they do not give companies the green light to mine in all places.

As you know, collectively our objective has been to follow Phoenix Copper diligently and ultimately to shape the Empire Mine project and follow-on mining to follow the highest standards to protect public lands, the Big Lost River valley, the town of Mackay and the Big Lost River itself. Community participation is essential to ensure that mine development considers all impacts to the environment, not just the company’s business plan.

In doing so, we find Pheonix Copper’s public facing information focused on current exploration efforts and securing additional mineral leases. But that information is often lacking and inconsistent with respect to mine financing, development, and operation. Our concerns are greatest in the following areas:

1. ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY STUDY – While likely the critical study for determination of mineral reserves, operations plans, and obtaining financing, this study has yet to be released to the public.

2. MEANINGFUL PUBLIC PARTICIPATION – A Konnex Resources (mine operator) local action committee was formed in March with membership skewed towards mine supporters. A monthly newsletter was also started. While touted as a source of community input, no meetings have been held since April and the newsletter has not been published since then. It is unclear whether these efforts will continue. While occasionally mentioning the importance of this project to the local community, it should be noted that Phoenix Copper is a London, England-based company with a Board of Directors that is almost exclusively non-US residents, chartered outside of the United States, and answering to shareholders that are not from Idaho.

3. WATER RESOURCES – Conflicting statements have been made about the quantity and source of water needed for mining operations.  While the Big Lost River water is fully allocated and the arid valley is extremely water limited, little outreach has been done with local stakeholders pertaining to current and possibly future water needs.

4. JOBS AND LOCAL/REGIONAL ECONOMIC BENEFITS – While the proposed Empire Mine site and processing operations are located literally on Mackay’s “back doorstep”, access is proposed through the center of town and processing is near and upslope from the Big Lost River. These issues have never been defined, even generally. Other issues like changes to the valley and the town of Mackay (roads, bridges, traffic and other infrastructure) are also not identified. Air quality issues from tailings dust and noise pollution from blasting, transportation, crushing, and processing have also received minimal disclosure thus far.

5. SITE REMEDIATION AND RECLAMATION – It is simply unknown at this time if Phoenix Copper will ultimately have the financial resources necessary to provide the cash bond for this mining project based on the accuracy of their estimates of future costs. There are many examples of mine failures where the State and local communities were ultimately required to bear that burden. The Zortman and Landusky mines in Montana, the Grouse Creek Mine near Stanley and the Triumph Mine in Blaine County are all relevant and ongoing cautionary examples.

The original Plan of Operations (PoO) for this project was filed in June 2021, but the BLM deemed that initial submission to be incomplete. As of early August 2022, Konnex has not yet filed a revised plan to the BLM to our knowledge. The BLM must have a complete PoO in hand prior to initiating the Environmental Impact Statement process (which will include public participation).

Thank you for your continued support and interest in the proposed Empire Mine and its potential adverse impact on the Big Lost River Valley, town of Mackay, and the Big Lost River.


Josh Johnson (ICL), Michael Gibson (TU), and concerned citizens Joe Chlebowski, Terry Ring, and Mark Ullman


If you have questions or comments please reach out to or

*Photo from Idaho Conservation League: looking from behind the mine towards the town of Mackay

International Fly Fishing Film Festival 2022!

By Meetings & Events

International Fly Fishing Film Festival 2022!

Friday, May 20, 2022  at the Argyros Theater in Ketchum, Idaho.  (There will not be a virtual showing.)

Click here for the sizzle reel

Doors Open at 5:30
Movie is at 7:00

Come early to purchase raffle tickets for your chance to win great fly fishing gear!

Bar Available

Buy your ticket in one of the following ways:

1. Click HERE
 to purchase from the Argyros website

2. Scan the QR code below 

3. Walk into the Argyros Theater or call (208) 726-7872

Volunteer at Silver Creek Preserve

By volunteer opportunities

Join us at Silver Creek Preserve on May 14th from 12pm-3pm to help us clean up before opening day.

Potential projects include:

  • Trails & sign maintenance
  • Cleaning of fishing access ramps
  • Wood fence removal, repair and replacement,
  • Gather irrigation pipe for use in restoration project
  • Help prep area for new pollinator garden
  • Paint/stain buildings (weather dependent)

Be sure to bring:

  • Layers to keep you comfortable in cold or warm temperatures (or rain!)
  • Work gloves
  • Water bottle
  • Boots or wader, if interested in helping with access ramps

Snacks and water-filling station will be provided.

We will have a volunteer waiver and photo release form for you to sign when you arrive.

Please click this LINK to register.

Photo by John Finnell

ERC Clean Sweep

By volunteer opportunities


Come join the trash pick up party! 

Join the Environmental Resource Center (ERC) for our annual community-wide trash pick-up! 

Early registration is available at the ERC office 9:00AM- 5:00PM

Monday, May 2nd through Friday, May 6th

May 7th, 2022- event registration starting at 9:00AM

  • ERC office (471 Washington Ave., Ketchum)-please come to this location to join the Hemingway Trout Unlimited team!
  • Hop Porter Park (by the arch, Hailey)
  • Memorial Park (between Cedar & Elm, Bellevue)

There are prizes for individuals and team trash pick-ups. 

For more information visit the ERC website or call 208-726-4333

Follow @hemingway_tu and @ERCSunValley




Hemingway TU Chapter Meetings

By Meetings & Events

May 4th: Doors open at 5PM at the Argyros Theater in Ketchum

Daniel Ritz’s Western Native Trout In Western Public Waters’ Presentation

Title: Western Native Trout in Western Public Waters Length

Summary: Daniel Ritz takes us on a journey around the West, sharing his experience completing the Western Native Trout Challenge over the summer of 2021. Over the course of his trip, Ritz completed a 40-part series for Trout Unlimited’s digital magazine sharing his experience pursuing each of the 20 available native species of the Western 12 states over a 6-month period.

States Included: Arizona, Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana

Species Included: Apache trout, Dolly Varden, Alaskan Lake trout, Arctic Char, Alaskan Rainbow trout, Arctic Grayling, Colorado River cutthroat trout, Bonneville cutthroat trout, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Gila trout, Lahontan cutthroat trout, California Golden trout, Kern River rainbow trout, Little Kern Golden trout, Redband trout, Coastal cutthroat trout, Bull trout, Westslope cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, Eagle Lake rainbow trout

About Daniel Ritz, 33, is an outdoor journalist and writer based in Boise, Idaho. The former editor of the Dana Point Times has had his work published by Trout Unlimited, Orvis, Western Native Trout Initiative, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers,Outdoor Idaho Magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Fish Alaska Magazine and Visit Idaho: Idaho Department of Tourism.

His editorial focus is contemporary issues regarding conservation, the environment, outdoor recreation and legislation.

Most recently, Ritz created a 40-part series sharing the experience of his Western Native Trout Challenge that was published by Trout Unlimited, Orvis and Western Native Trout Initiative and Montana Fly Company. In it, he wrote personal experience based essays and natural history and science based “Species Profiles” for each of the 20 available native trout and char species of the Western 12 states of the United States.

Ritz is the Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the Idaho Wildlife Federation and volunteers as the communications coordinator for the Ted Trueblood Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Ritz graduated in 2009 from Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Philosophy. He resides in Boise with his partner Holly, their Wirehaired Pointing Griffon named Trout and an oversized cat named Julio.

Survey of the Lower Big Lost River 2021

By conservation & projects

Big Lost River Tailwater: Fish Population Estimates

In early April of this year, we conducted our seventh population estimate to survey the fish populations in the tailwater of the Big Lost River, where we caught 1,012 Rainbow Trout in the survey.  We are most interested in gathering data on the Rainbow Trout and Mountain Whitefish populations in this portion of the river.  Referring to the figure below, abundances of both species are increasing compared to our last surveys conducted in 2018.  Rainbow Trout abundance has increased 26% and Mountain Whitefish abundance has increased 57%.

Read the full article here:

Fish Rescue Program

By volunteer opportunities

Every year thousands of trout and other species of fish which live in the Big Wood River migrate into irrigation diversions and canals never to return to the river. At the end of each irrigation season when the water flows are shut off, the fishbecome trapped and die. In 2021 we rescued 23,00 fish,  If you want to know more about this program please go to our website

The Rescues often occur with little notification resulting in times and locations changing at the last minute.

If you would like to volunteer for this meaningful and fun program please email me a with your email address and phone number. I will put you in a list that gets contacted when we do the rescues. I look forward to hearing from those of you who are interested.

Ed Northen:, mobile: 949-246-9372


Past Projects

By conservation & projects

Lake Creek Project

Lake Creek Lake sits in a beautiful setting and is one of the places families in the community gather to teach their children about fishing.  There is little stream habitat below the lake  in which fish can hold and survive.  This project was done enhance the stream to provide better habitat for trout to live in.

Volunteers and Staff from TU and the US Forest Service performed a stream enhancement project on Lake Creek this October 2015.  The enhancement  consisted of adding large woody debris in-stream to add fish habitat and assist with stream hydraulics.  Volunteers moved log sections, secured them in-stream, and performed additional riparian enhancement work in 2014.  In 2015 phase 2, took place over three days.   Volunteers planted a variety of stream side vegetation that will provide, shade, habitat and stabilization to the habitat.  Lots of digging through rocky soils presented a challenge but the volunteers were undaunted.

Restoration of this area may continue in the future.  We will evaluate the impact of work completed in a few years to see if more restoration is viable.


Current Projects

By conservation & projects

 Box Car Bend Clean-up & Maintenance

Every Spring, Usually in May

The Hemingway Chapter of Trout Unlimited  has been partnering with The Wood River Land Trust since 2006 on this annual project. Each year we provide maintenance to the accesses and trails at Box Car Bend on the Big Wood River. 

 Participants of all ages helped  pull invasive weeds, clean trails from overgrowth and crab grass, put down wood chips on the trails and maintain the erosion control barriers.
A few hours of hard work are followed up by a BBQ lunch and snacks.    
Volunteers should bring appropriate clothing including  hats, sun glassess, and work gloves.
Tools to bring: garden rakes, scoop shovels, hoes, Wheel Barrows

Contact for this project is  Carmen Northen at flyfishngirl@cox

Fishing Access Maintenance

One of the ongoing projects the Hemingway Chapter is involved in, is marking and maintaining access to the Big Wood river.  We have been doing this for over a decade and Board Member Dave Spaulding, has been the lead on this effort. In 2011 we began posting fishing regulation and access signs in English and Spanish on almost all of the Big Wood river accesses. We continue to maintain the accesses clearing them of overgrowth and making them visible.  This year we will again provide maintenance to these accesses and ensure regulation and access signs are posted.  Usually the project is done by 4 to 6 people over several days.  This year members of the TU Board gathered together to clear the access at the two Flying Heart access points.  These two parking have been closed down by the homeowners association.  Blaine County Commissioners, Silver Creek Outfitters and TU Hemingway Chapter are in the process of trying to resolve this issue.    We parked just off of the highway and walked into the access sights and cleared the trail . We will be sending out notices of the dates for this project,  once we have them scheduled. Volunteers are needed to participate in one day or all of them.

ERC Clean Sweep

Each spring since 2017 the Hemingway Chapter supports and participates with a team in the ERC “clean sweep” of the Wood River Valley.  Volunteers join together and clean up the river and banks along the Big Wood River at River Run access up and down stream.   We have found and removed a chaise lounge , burnt up guitar, a muffler system and lots of beverage bottles and cans, road cones and general debris.  Our team has won the “best spirit” award and “most unusual find” awards.  This is a fun event and accomplishes our goal of protecting our rivers.


By Meetings & Events

Time: 5:00 -7:00/Doors open at 5:00 PM at the Argyros Theater, in Ketchum

Where:  Argyros Theater, Ketchum

Guest speakers present local and global fishing opportunities, discuss tactics and stewardship practices. Learn about opportunities to participate in local projects and conservation efforts.

Next Meeting : October 12th, 2022

Please check our calendar for an updated schedule and speakers to be announced closer to the fall.

See you soon!