Silica exploration planned near Lake Pend Oreille

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SANDPOINT — The U.S. Forest Service is gathering public comment on a proposal to conduct exploratory drilling for silica near the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille.

Pend Oreille Silica Inc., a Montana company, is seeking approval to drill a pair of exploratory holes of up to 200 feet. If the probing successfully reveals mineralization of value, the company may submit a plan for additional exploration and potential development of the discovery.

The drilling would be conducted in Bonner County on Green Mountain, which overlooks the southeastern edge of the lake north of Lakeview.

The deadline to comment on the exploratory drilling is Friday, Jan. 19, according to a scoping notice published by the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Sandpoint Ranger District.

Sandpoint District Ranger Erick Walker has made a preliminary assessment that the limited scope of the exploratory drilling categorically excludes it from being subject to a National Environmental Policy Act environmental impact statement or a less stringent environmental assessment.

Further exploratory drilling and development of the deposit would, however, be subject to NEPA analysis.

Missoula-based Pend Oreille Silica is marketing the deposit on Colliers International, the global commercial real estate services organization.

The claims area encompasses 640 areas and another 1,700 acres have been identified for staking and claiming, according to the Colliers listing.

Substantial, high-purity silica deposit of an estimated 16 million tons is believed to be within the claims area, which has a history of purity identification and documentation that dates back to the early 1900s.

“The potential 2,340-acre claims area has an estimated 21 million tons of high-purity silica.” the Colliers listing said.

News of the exploratory drilling comes as the community is riven by a Canadian company’s proposal to develop a silicon smelting plant in Newport. Alberta-based HiTest Sands, however, will refine material from a quartz mine it owns in British Columbia.

Public comments

Direct written comments on the Green Mountain Exploratory Drill to the U.S. Forest Service, 3815 Schreiber Way, Coeur d’Alene, ID. 83815. They can also be emailed to comments-northern-idpanhandle-sandpoint@fs.fed.us

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