Mining Threat

Since the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society and Native Plant Society of Oregon first nominated the Veva Stansell Botanical Area, the local community has fended off a major environmental threat in the Hunter Creek watershed.

In 2013, a foreign-owned mining company with extensive mineral claims proposed to conduct exploratory drilling operations in the Red Flat Botanical Area and surrounding areas south of Hunter Creek with the aim of developing a nickel strip mine.

To address the emerging threat of nickel strip mining at the headwaters of Hunter Creek and Pistol River watersheds, a coalition of community members and conservation groups proposed to withdraw the greater Red Flat area from mining.

In 2015, Congressman DeFazio and Senators Wyden and Merkley introduced legislationthe Southwestern Oregon Salmon and Watershed Protection Act (SOWSPA)— to do just that and also to withdraw similarly threatened areas at the headwaters of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith and Illinois Rivers

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management temporarily withdrew these headwaters areas to give Congress time to act. Even the temporary withdrawal required an extensive public process, including scoping, 3 public hearings in 3 communities, and a formal Environmental Assessment over the course of two years.  

Public support for protection was overwhelming with more than 60,000 comments, 99% in favor of the proposed withdrawal. Support came from cities, counties, water districts, local businesses, fishing groups, garden clubs, conservation groups, and more. 

More than 600 signatures collected at this website were submitted to show support for protecting botanical values of the upper Hunter Creek watershed.

In early 2017, after considering all the public comments, the Department of the Interior finally approved a 20-year withdrawal for the headwaters areas, including the proposed Veva Stansell Botanical Area. This is a great relief!

This action means no new mining claims will be allowed, and existing claims must prove "valid" before any mining proposal can advance. 

It's not a perfect solution, but until the outmoded 1872 mining law is reformed, the only way to address mining threats on public lands is with the band-aid approach of a "mineral withdrawal."  This does not mean extracting or "withdrawing" minerals —but rather that the federal government withdraws the land from the possibility of new mining claims under the Mining Law of 1872. 

A "mineral withdrawal" prevents future mining claims from being staked and requires that existing claims be proven "valid." Validity is determined through a formula related solely to the profitability of minerals. "Mineral withdrawals" do not apply to valid existing claims.

The only open pit nickel mine in North America was located in Riddle, Oregon. Though now closed and “reclaimed,” a huge scar remains on the land. If you want to see what a reclaimed nickel laterite mine looks like, open Google Earth and do a search for "Nickel Mountain, Riddle, Oregon." Here's a thumbnail version: 

Nickel Mountain courtesy of Southwest Oregon Mining Facts
A strip mine at the headwaters of Hunter Creek and Pistol River would have significant impacts on water quality, native fish runs, rare botanical resources, and public health of local residents. According to the U.S. EPA, metal mining is the most polluting industry in the America.  

With the threat of mining temporarily abated, we've turned our attention back to enjoying the wildflowers and promoting designation of the Veva Stansell Botanical Area. 

Please lend your support to this campaign, which will help protect the unique botanical resources of the Hunter Creek watershed —plus important fish and wildlife values, too. Click here to add your name to our petition.