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Originally published Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 5:03 PM

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Mining near Mount St. Helens? Test drilling OK'd

Ascot Resources, a Vancouver, B.C.-based resources company, will go prospecting in the upper Green River Watershed, an area suspected to have $50 billion worth of gold, silver, molybdenum and copper deposits.

The (Centralia) Chronicle

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The Bureau of Land Management says it has approved two hard-rock prospecting permits for Ascot Resources. The permits allow for geological exploration within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest northeast of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Ascot Resources, a Vancouver, B.C.-based resources company, in March 2011 applied for the permits to prospect in the upper Green River Watershed, an area where gold, silver, molybdenum and copper deposits have been valued at more than $50 billion. They may begin exploratory drilling as early as summer.

Land Management's go-ahead was the second of two approvals needed by Ascot. Earlier this month the U.S. Forest Service consented to the prospecting. In a notice of decision, the Forest Service said Ascot's proposed drilling would not cause significant environmental impact and that the issued permits allow for a limited scope of activity.

"I recognize there are concerns related to potential for future mining," Cowlitz Valley District Ranger Gar Abbas said in a statement released by the Forest Service. "The current actions before the federal agencies are related to prospecting (exploration) activities within the permit areas. This is not a mining development project."

Bob Evans, chief financial officer and director of Ascot Resources, also urged restraint in discussions about future mining.

"If the results of the current proposed drill program are promising, still more drilling will be required to determine if there is a substantial economic deposit," Evans told The Chronicle following the Forest Service's decisions. "Discussion of processing is premature until we have a fuller understanding of the deposit."

Ascot may prospect in an area of approximately 900 acres — managed by the U.S. Forest Service — where they own the subsurface mineral rights. According to the issued permits, Ascot will conduct mineral exploration via 63 small-diameter boreholes at 23 pad sites, each of less than 400 square feet.

Prospecting permits are valid for two years but may be extended for an additional four years. To actually obtain a mineral lease, Ascot would have to demonstrate the discovery of a valuable mineral deposit. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service would then review and approve or deny a mineral lease.

Valuable minerals were first discovered near Mount St. Helens in the late 1800s.

In 2010, Ascot rebored 11 previously drilled holes off U.S. Forest Service Road 26, near Ryan Lake. The company sought to confirm prior mineral findings. At the time, the company's work — and its potential for economic growth and job creation — was lauded by many in Morton and Randle.

Recent increases in copper and gold prices and improvements in prospecting technology may account for the renewed interest in the area, according to the Forest Service.

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