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A "green" mine...?
IDAHO COBALT PROJECT UNDER SCRUTINY
 

Aerial view of the old Blackbird Mine, a cobalt producer in the 1950's. The new Idaho Cobalt Project would be in this area.
A Canadian company, Formation Capital, wants to construct an underground cobalt mine in the Panther Creek watershed, 45 miles by road, west of Salmon. Panther Creek at high run-off in early May. The stream is still recovering from historic mining impacts.

Panther Creek is a major tributary to the Salmon River, and was so contaminated by heavy metals from the Blackbird Mine in the 1950's, that Chinook Salmon runs were destroyed and have never returned.

Now, Idaho Cobalt Project says it will be a modern "green" mine and not harm the Panther Creek area. In June, the Salmon-Challis National Forest released its Record of Decision (ROD) approving the mine. In August, Boulder-White Clouds Council joined Earthworks (formerly Mineral Policy Center) to appeal the decision. We are represented by attorney Roger Flynn, Western Mining Action Project, who BWCC has partnered with on three other central Idaho mines.
 

1872 Mining Law Reform

Congress took no action in 2008 on reforming the archaic 1872 Mining Law. Last November, the House passed the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007, but the Senate did not take up the bill or introduce their own. Efforts will continue in the upcoming 111th Congress. HR 2262 is championed by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV, House Natural Resources Committee Chair.

1872 Mining Law reform is crucial to Idaho’s clean water and fish.

If passed, hardrock minerals taken from public lands would be assessed an 8% royalty. Coal, oil and gas extractors currently pay up to 12.5%. (Rep. Rahall is from West Virginia, a coal mining state.) Patenting, the process where public lands are sold to mining companies for $2.50 to $5.00 an acre, would end. Reclamation bonds would reflect actual clean-up cost. Agencies would be able to say no to mining in some areas.

Our appeal asked that the mine:

  • meet a more stringent arsenic standard
  • comply with a more rigorous copper and mercury reduction plan
  • conduct increased water quality monitoring
  • undergo enhanced regulatory oversight.

Our negotiations with Formation Capital have resulted in a settlement that meets the terms above, plus the mine will post its monitoring results on the internet. As our discussions were on-going, the Forest withdrew its ROD, stating that some more environmental protection criteria was needed. The project has also been appealed by the Nez Perce Tribe, and by Noranda, whose parent company is the world's largest cobalt producer. Noranda now owns the old Blackbird Mine, which is near the Idaho Cobalt Mine location.

Formation Capital hopes to start construction in 2009. It owns 146 unpatented mining claims covering over 2500 acres in rugged mountain terrain. The mine would employ 157 workers with an annual payroll of over $9 million.

By Lynne K. Stone, BWCC, Copyright 2008.
Bonnie Gestring, Earthworks, contributed to this story.


FROM TOP LEFT:

Aerial view of the old Blackbird Mine, a cobalt producer in the 1950's. The new Idaho Cobalt Project would be in this area.


Panther Creek at high run-off in early May. The stream is still recovering from historic mining impacts.


Blackbird Creek is Unsafe for Drinking - a sign near Cobalt, Idaho.
 

Blackbird Creek is Unsafe for Drinking - a sign near Cobalt, Idaho.


UPDATE
> 11/17/08
Formation
resolves
appeals with
environmental
groups on Idaho
Cobalt Project.
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