The JR Simplot Company wants a 1300 acre (2 square mile) expansion of its huge phosphate pit mine in Idaho on the Wyoming border. The federal government BLM just put out a fat environmental impact statement on the Smoky Canyon Mine enlargement, which they seem ready to approve. There are many other phosphate pits in SE Idaho.

The impacts of these phosphate mines extend far beyond the pits because rainwater seeping through the spoils picks up huge levels of toxic selenium which runs into the springs, creek and rivers in Wyoming (and eventually in the Snake River in Idaho). More sheep have died of poisoning while grazing on the “rehabilitated” mine spoils than have been killed by wolves in eastern Idaho.

There is a website that is trying to alert the public to the problem. . . . Caribou Cleanwater Partnership.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. Gov. Freudenthal wants more time on phosphate mine review.

The selenium also concentrates in some native plants such as gumweed.

The phosphate rock ore is processed in Pocatello, ID into phosphate for fertilizer. Another large phosphate plant is in Soda Springs, Idaho. This mine is to feed the Pocatello plant.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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