Jeff Barnard / AP Photo

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story quoted Rep. Gael Tarleton, who said, "Oregon has a moratorium" on suction dredge mining. She also said, "The state of Idaho has banned suction dredging under the Clean Water Act." The state of Oregon does not have a moratorium though it does restrict the practice, and the state of Idaho has banned the practice only in some waters, including all areas designated as critical habitat for endangered salmon. 

Washington is the only state left in the Pacific Northwest where people mining for gold and other minerals are allowed unrestricted use of motorized vacuums in riverbeds.

The practice is known as suction dredge mining, and some are concerned it’s harmful to endangered fish. A bill before the legislature would place new restrictions on it while its impacts are studied.

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a judge's ruling that a mining company must go through a stricter permitting process before it can build a copper and silver mine in northwestern Montana.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Bureau of Land Management says a Canadian company could prospect for copper, gold and silver near Mount St. Helens with no significant impact on the environment.

Fines for fatal mining accident less than predicted

Jun 4, 2012

The federal government is fining a north Idaho mining company $360,000 for unsafe practices that killed a miner last year. That’s about a third of the penalties that were expected.

Last year federal inspectors said the Hecla Mining Company engaged in “aggravated conduct” when it allowed miners to extract silver ore from a mass of unstable rock. It happened about a mile underground at the Lucky Friday Mine near Mullan, Idaho.

The practices led to a tunnel collapse that killed 53-year-old Larry Marek, according to a investigation.

J.R. Simplot / Idaho DEQ

SODA SPRINGS, Idaho - Here’s an image you usually don’t see without the help of Photoshop: two-headed fish. Pictures of deformed baby trout with two heads show up in a study of creeks in a remote part of southeast Idaho.

The study examined the effects of a contaminant called selenium. It comes from a nearby mine owned by the agribusiness giant, J.R. Simplot. Critics say the two-headed trout have implications beyond a couple of Idaho creeks.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

The rockburst that injured seven miners in north Idaho last week registered as a 2.2 seismic event according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That contradicts earlier reports about what could have caused the collapse. The mine remains closed while federal officials investigate the incident.

It's a matter of cause and effect. Did an earthquake trigger the rockburst at the Lucky Friday Mine ... or was the shaking caused by the collapse a mile underground?

Crews have rescued seven miners after a collapse at the Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho. It’s the third major accident there this year. The Lucky Friday’s owner says the silver mine has been evacuated until further notice.

A rockburst occurred Wednesday evening nearly 6,000 feet underground near Mullan in Idaho’s Silver Valley. Local law enforcement and the mine’s rescue crew were called in. Twenty-five people were working in the vicinity at the time.

National Park Conservation Assn.

It’s thousands of miles away, but supporters of a campaign to stop a controversial mine proposal in Alaska say it would harm more than just the pristine ecosystem where it’s located.

They’re launching a “Save Bristol Bay Road Show” in Seattle tonight, claiming the city’s fishing industry could lose thousands of jobs if the mine is built. 

Environmentalists are seeking to stop exploratory drilling on forest lands near Mount St. Helens, as a Canadian company prepares next month to drill more holes to probe for copper, gold and other minerals.