Department of Interior Responds to Public Demand for Twenty-year Temporary Withdrawal – September 2016

For years, Smith River Alliance and coalition partners have been pushing hard to get the maximum protection possible—a 20-year mineral withdrawal—in place before mining companies advance plans to strip mine the wild headwaters of the iconic Smith, Illinois and Rogue Rivers. The Department of the Interior initially proposed a 5-year withdrawal. Although this would be a worthy safeguard, with the prospect of Congressional gridlock, the public has pressed for the maximum interim protection for these remarkable rivers and their precious headwaters, with over 99% of comments favoring a 20-year withdrawal.

In September, the U.S. Forest Service and BLM amended their original proposal for the Southwestern Oregon Mineral withdrawal to extend its duration to 20 years. A new public comment period amending is now open through December 1, 2016.

A second comment period demands more work — but when that work is standing up for the Smith River – and we can do it together – we relish the opportunity.

With your help we can secure a 20-year withdrawal before the end of the Obama Administration.

Over 45,000 Favorable Comments Received on the Environmental Assessment – May 2016 See Coalition technical comments here.

Agencies Release Environmental Assessment for Proposed Mineral Withdrawal – April 2016

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, with the Medford and Coos Bay Districts of the Bureau of Land Management, has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for the 2015 Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal.

The release of this EA on April 28, 2016 initiated the public comment period; written comments will be accepted for 30 calendar days.

The proposed withdrawal, which is in aid of legislation proposed by multiple members of Congress, encompasses more than 100,000 acres of Forest Service and BLM-administered lands in the Rough and Ready-Baldface Creek and the Hunter Creek-North Fork Pistol River subwatersheds of southwestern Oregon.

The agencies have provided multiple opportunities for public involvement and comment regarding this proposed withdrawal.

Public meetings were held in September 2015 in Gold Beach and Grants Pass, drawing approximately 250 attendees to each meeting, with more than 100 members of the public speaking. Roughly 23,000 comments have been received to date, the majority of which have been in support of the proposed withdrawal.

The Environmental Assessment is available online http://1.usa.gov/1TAFAZz.

Foreign Mining Company Pays $120,000 to Washington D.C. Lobbyists

In 2015, Red Flat Nickel Corporation, the foreign owned mining company, retained Squire Patton and Boggs, a Washington D.C. Lobbying firm, to help further the company’s two Southwestern Oregon mining projects—the Red Flat Project, in the headwaters of Hunter Creek and the Pistol River and the Cleopatra Project, in the pristine watershed of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River. According to Open Secrets.org Red Flat Nickel Corp. paid Squire Patton and Boggshe $120,000 for lobbying members of the U.S. Congress and officials at the U. S. Forest Service.

Squire Patton and Boggs has the third largest lobbying practice in nation. Former U.S. Senators Trent Lott and John Breaux represented Red Flat Nickel Corporation.




Community Standing Strong Against Strip Mining! September 2015

Pro-mining interests have been outnumbered 200 to 1 at the recent Grants Pass and Gold Beach public meetings re the proposed 5-year ban on new mining claims. Hundreds of citizens as well as representatives from key public agencies have spoken in support for clean water, wild rivers, and salmon.

~ Del Norte Triplicate Article
~ Public Radio Interview

The City of Crescent City was represented at both meetings along with Board members for the Big Rock and Gasquet Community Service Districts. The City and these Districts are the major water purveyors in Del Norte. The CA Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) was also represented at the Grants Pass meeting —- and their comments were followed by a roar of applause.

In summary, it was a great couple of nights for the protection of clean water and wild rivers.  Without question we have much work ahead to prevent strip mining in the headwaters of the Smith, Illinois and Pistol Rivers and Hunter Creek, but the TEAM scored big for the proposed mineral withdrawal. Watch the 8-minute Emerald Waters video for glimpses of the North Fork Smith and other threatened Kalmiopsis rivers.


Wild & Scenic Smith River Threatened by Proposed Nickel Strip Mine

An international mining company is actively pursing plans to develop a nickel strip mine in the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River in Oregon. The Red Flat Nickel Corporation is proposing to locate their mine southeast of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness within the Baldface Creek drainage, which is a key tributary to the North Fork Smith.

The Smith River is one of the “crown jewels” of the National Wild and Scenic River System, and the Smith River National Recreation Area protects the river and its tributaries in California from numerous threats, including mining. Unfortunately, these protections do not extend across the border into Oregon, which is home to numerous important tributaries.

If developed, the proposed mine will pose a serious threat to public drinking water supplies. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the metal mining industry is the largest source of toxic pollution in the country. Test drilling alone has significant potential to contaminate and impair the public drinking water of downstream communities in Del Norte County, CA including Gasquet, Hiouchi and the City of Crescent City. These communities are on record opposing the mines.

Additionally, Baldface Creek is a significant spawning and rearing tributary for Chinook salmon and steelhead, and is a known hot spot for the endangered coho salmon. The emerald-green water of the Smith River and its tributaries are a stronghold for these critical species in part because it is the only major undammed river in California. A strip mine would have significant impacts to these values.

The region faces numerous threats from mining development. In addition to the mine proposed in the North Fork Smith watershed, Red Flat is also pursing a mine in the headwaters of Hunter Creek and Pistol River, which are found along the Oregon Coast. A second company (RNR Resources) is pursuing a proposal to mine in the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Illinois River in the Rough and Ready Creek Basin.

Protect the Emerald Green Waters of the Smith!

The good news is Senators Wyden and Merkley of Oregon and Representatives DeFazio of Oregon and Huffman of California have introduced legislation to permanently protect these public lands from mining through the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act of 2015. If enacted, the bill will put a “mineral withdrawal” in place, meaning that new mining activities would no longer take place at Baldface Creek and the North Fork Smith Watershed. The bill also protects Rough and Ready Creek, Hunter Creek, the headwaters of the Pistol River and the Chetco from mining activities.

In June of 2015, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management followed suit and initiated a mineral withdrawal in aid of legislation on public lands in southwest Oregon.  The mineral withdrawal concerns 95,806 acres of National Forest System lands on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and 5,216 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands on the Medford District and Coos Bay Districts.

Click here to see maps of the proposed mineral withdrawal areas

A five-year mineral withdrawal, if approved by the Department of Interior, would potentially begin before the end of a two-year segregation period which started with the publication of a Federal Register Notice on June 29, 2015.  The segregation period is needed to process the withdrawal application, which includes environmental analysis.

Click here to read some of the many outstanding agency and NGO letters submitted in support of the proposed mineral withdrawal.



Hunter Creek and Pistol River Headwaters Withdrawal Proposal
(Download PDF)


Rough and Ready and Baldface Creeks Mineral Withdrawal Proposal
(Download PDF)


Press Coverage

Recent Press on the Proposed Mineral Withdrawal

View/download a PDF with select press from June 26 to September 23, 2015 on the proposed mineral withdrawal.

Other Press

Protect SW Oregon from nickel strip mining
Register-Guard, August 3, 2015

Proposed mine by wild Smith River roils Del Norte County folks
San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 2014

County, city: ‘No’ to mining
Del Norte Triplicate, July 10, 2014

Oregon Nickel Mine Proposal Runs Into Stiff Opposition
Jefferson Public Radio, July 15, 2014

Water in redwood country is worth more than nickel
Sacramento Bee, October 13, 2013, Op-Ed by Tim Palmer

Letters of Support

More Info