According to DOGAMI, seven significant mines are permitted in Malheur County. Most are industrial or gold mines.

According to DOGAMI, seven significant mines are permitted in Malheur County. Most are industrial or gold mines.

Rick Bowmer/AP

A new report from Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries shows that an area that conservationists want to protect has a rich vein of mining potential.

Malheur County has a lot of gold, silver and uranium, says DOGAMI  spokeswoman Ali Ryan Hansen.

“There’s enough of it that it might be economically feasible to develop a mining operation there,” said Hansen.

But Malheur County is also the home to the Owyhee Canyonlands, which conservationists want to see protected, in part, from new mining.

The minerals report from the state comes two months after Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced a bill in Congress that would block new mines in the Owyhee.

The Southeastern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal and Economic Preservation and Development Act would also block oil and gas drilling. The bill hasn’t gotten further than introduction in the Senate.

Hansen pointed out that high levels of mineral deposits doesn’t mean that new mines are easily approved.

“Even though we have determined that there’s high potential for gold, silver other kinds of resources out there, there are so many other things that determine whether a mine can make a go of it,” Hansen said. 

According to DOGAMI, seven significant mines are permitted in Malheur County. Most are industrial or gold mines.

Conservationists have lobbied President Obama to create an Owyhee National Monument in Malheur County. Many local residents oppose that designation. The President has given no indication that he plans to designate a monument in Oregon before the end of his term.