Idaho Conservation Group
by Rocky Barker
A Canadian company planning to mine cobalt in central Idaho has struck a deal with the Idaho Conservation League to enhance the upper Salmon River watershed.
The ICL, the state's largest environmental group, will not challenge the Forest Service's approval of the mine in the Panther Creek drainage northwest of Salmon. Details of the pact will be released Monday.
Formation Capital Corp. plans invest $138 million to mine annually more than 1,500 tons of cobalt -- used in jet engines, batteries for hybrid and electric cars and other machines -- in a area with some of the richest deposits of cobalt known in the world. In June the Forest Service approved the project with conditions.
"The Idaho Conservation League has been actively reviewing this project for mining in a highly impacted site and we will continue to do so," said Rick Johnson, ICL executive director. "They say they can mine a strategic material and still be a good environmental neighbor. Our agreement will help them prove it."
The agency required the company to post bonds to guarantee long-term water-quality management and required measures to protect endangered fish and to meet federal pollution-discharge rules. The projects agreed to with the conservation group go beyond its requirements set by the Forest Service.
"Formation Capital is pleased to join with the Idaho Conservation League in announcing the creation of the Conservation Action Program to implement projects to further enhance and improve natural resource, environmental and wildlife resources and values in the Upper Salmon River watershed," said Formation Capital CEO Mari-Ann Green. "These projects are in addition to mitigation measures and other regulatory requirements applicable to the Idaho Cobalt Project under federal or state law."
Formation Capital also must obtain administrative access and power line easements across adjacent private land prior to mining, an issue that forced the company to go to court to obtain during prospecting. The mine also won't slow remediation of the adjacent Blackbird Mine, which had a tailings pond fail in the 1950s causing a major fish kill on Panther Creek.
It has not announced when it plans to begin construction.
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