A proposed mine in the Green River Valley near Mount St. Helens has been in a standoff between Ascot Resources and conservation groups for over a decade.
Right now, Ascot is not moving forward. But those involved with the Green River Valley Alliance, an initiative founded by nonprofit Cascade Forest Conservancy, want to ensure that no company is ever able to establish mining projects in that neck of the woods.
The nonprofit is running a campaign by the name “No Place for a Mine,” and on Aug. 3, its campaign manager, Sean Roome, 27, of Portland, will be at the Packwood Brewery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. presenting on the issue and the organization’s work. There will also be an action workshop where attendees can sign petitions and write letters while learning other ways to stop steps toward a mine at Mount St. Helens.
The group is currently pursuing a legislative mineral withdrawal, which requires an act of Congress. Roome said the act would only prohibit mining in the area and would not affect harvest of timber or other natural resources.
“The first step in that process is securing support at the local and regional levels so that we can build a campaign and build support from a wide variety of audiences, from people from all different backgrounds, to leverage that into support from our federal representatives,” Roome said.
He added that the Green River Valley Alliance is not an anti-mining group, but that they believe the proposed location is no place for one.
According to an email from David Stewart, vice president of corporate development and shareholder communications for Ascot — where he called the campaign’s materials “grossly misleading” — the company has “no plans to build a mine at the Mt. Margaret property. We have been trying to do some minimal-impact exploration drilling on the property, an incredibly common practice all over the world, and the ability to do that has been tied up in the courts for some years now.”
Stewart added Ascot did understand that negative views of mining when related to conservation had not been helped by negative practices by companies in the past.
Though it may seem premature, Roome said, the conservation group took action during the exploratory drilling phase not necessarily because of the impact to the environment from that practice, but because if that was approved, he said it would be difficult to stop the area from quickly becoming a “full-fledged mine.” Current mining laws date back 150 years, making the process hard to stop for conservation purposes, he said.
The proposed copper mine has been discussed for the area for some time, gaining approval from Lewis County officials including former commissioners Edna Fund and Gary Stamper. But Roome said there would be problems stemming from its development both for conservation and recreation.
Trails in the area, he said, are “beloved” for hikers, mountain bikers, backcountry hunters and anglers, and horseback riders. The Green River is also a wild steelhead “gene bank,” according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, meaning it has a self-sustaining population of wild steelhead and is not stocked by hatchery fish.
Roome said a mine would threaten the health of the river and what it provides to those fish and to communities downstream who rely on the glacial river for drinking water as it flows into the Toutle and Cowlitz rivers.
“We firmly believe that it's no place for a mine,” Roome said. “But, we are open to engaging with people no matter what their stance is.”
For more information on the upcoming event or the organization itself, visit https://www.greenrivervalleyalliance.org/events.