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Before retiring from the Forest Service Ray Henderson led the Bear Track Mining operation through the complex permit process and repeated that process for the Idaho Cobalt Project. During the City Councilís March 20 meeting he used the Public Comment opportunity to point out what he sees as the Forest Service trend to de-prioritize the minerals program in Lemhi County. He referred to a newspaper story on the January 28 meeting of the Lemhi County Commissioners in which the Forest Service stated that last year only one out of every 20 plans of operations submitted was processed and that any new operations plan is a year away from processing.

Henderson said in the late 1980ís there was extensive mining activity in the area predicated on $400 per ounce gold prices. When Bear Track Mine closed in 2000 gold stood at $262 an ounce and silver was around $4 an ounce. ďToday, gold is around $1600 an ounce and silver is around $30. Last year in 2012 over $20 million was spent on mineral acquisition, development and exploration in Lemhi County.Ē He said the Forest Service decision to deprioritize minerals exploration came at exactly the wrong time.

A new Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor will be arriving next month and Henderson said since a forest supervisor has a 51 percent say in the list of priorities, now is the time to let feelings be known. ďTo me itís critical that the community, and thatís why Iím appealing to the City Council, let the Forest Service know that that needs to be a priority. You can see the trend occurring and thereís a lot of money being spent. It was exploration activities from one end of this county to the other in 2012. Itís going to fall off if they [Forest Service] donít put that back as a priority.Ē He encouraged letters to the new supervisor requesting a revision of the priorities and suggested Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark be invited to a City Council meeting.

Hendersonís topic of equal importance was a public comment period on a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for a proposed drilling program by Meridian Beartrack Company. The comment period will end April 7. The EA is the first step towards a potential reopening of gold mining operations in the area. If the preliminary exploration for new gold resources within the project area is allowed and proves viable, and if the Forest Service processes Meridianís subsequent plans of operation in a timely manner it could lead to the re-opening of the Beartrack Mine.

Henderson urged all residents to participate in the comment period.

The next meeting of the Salmon City Council will be April 3 at 6PM in the Salmon Valley Center meeting room.
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