EPA Region 10 Lemhi County Town of Lemhi
2nd Congressional District Other Names:
Last Update: May, 2010
The Blackbird Mine site encompasses approximately 830 acres of private patented mining claims and 10,000 acres of unpatented claims within the Salmon National Forest. The site is located 20 miles west of Salmon, Idaho and is in the Panther Creek drainage basin, which drains into the Salmon River. Big Deer Creek and Blackbird Creek drain into Panther Creek. Since the late 1800s, several companies have mined cobalt and copper on the site with both mine tunnels and open-pit methods. The current owner, the Noranda Mining Company, ceased operations in 1982. Mine tunnels, waste rock piles, and the open pit are located at the headwaters of Meadow and Bucktail Creeks which drain into Big Deer and Blackbird Creeks. There is a tailings impoundment located on the West Fork of Blackbird Creek and tailing deposits located along Blackbird Creek from transport of tailings to the West Fork tailings impoundment or direct discharges of tailings into the creek. The waste rock piles alone are approximately 4 million cubic yards. Investigations have shown that acid rock drainage and leachate from the tunnels, waste piles and tailings have contributed to the poor water quality in local creeks. High levels of heavy metals such as copper, cobalt, and arsenic are present in surface water and/or sediments downstream from the site. The copper levels exceeded EPA's Fresh Water Ambient Water Quality Criteria. Arsenic in soils located along the banks of Blackbird Creek and Panther Creek downstream of the mine may pose a potential risk to humans. The Snake River sockeye spring/summer Chinook salmon, Snake River steelhead and bull trout, listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, are threatened by the poor water quality.
Site Responsibility: This site is being addressed through federal and potentially responsible parties' actions.