"The agency decision wasn't consistent with the original intent for the land, so it's really frustrating for us that they're moving forward with the exploratory drilling," said Jessica Schafer, conservation director for the group Gifford Pinchot Task Force.
Previous plans by General Moly, an Idaho company, to mine on the site met public opposition. The BLM denied the lease application in 2008, and the General Moly dropped its plans. Ascot has since obtained an option to buy General Moly's mining claims.
Ascots plans to drill 63 holes. Each hole would be about 2 to 3 inches in diameter to a depth of around 1,000 feet, The Columbian reported (http://is.gd/wKGeio ).
The BLM is the lead agency on the application process and has received close to 6,000 comments on the drilling proposal, spokesman Michael Campbell said.
The BLM's final decision also will allow the appeal process to begin.