Phosphate mining and our hope for change

Phosphate mining, its jobs, and its environmental impact are big things in SE Idaho-

A lot of the folks I talked with today spontaneously and favorably brought up this article by Marv Hoyt, Idaho Representative for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. It appeared in the Pocatello, Idaho newspaper. March 24, 2010.

Phosphate Mining and Our Hope for Change. By Marv Hoyt. Idaho State Journal.






  1. Salle Avatar

    This industry has been trashing SE Idaho for a long time, as stated in the article. Mining is as big a problem as the processing plants. In Pocatello, Soda Springs and other locations there are days when you can’t breatthe the air because it is as though someone whacked you in the face with a dusty bag of fertilizer the instant you step outside your door. There is a high number of cases of what appears to be sinus infection but is actually a form of phosphate poisoning, not to mention the high rate of cancer in Pocatello and points east ~ downwind of the processing plant.

    en plus,

    I posted the following on another thread earlier this week but it bears repeating in addition to the comments below the article:

    First, don’t forget that JRStinkpot is the largest land holder and employer in the state so with all that elemental phosphate and all the pollution its processing releases into the air and whatever other poisons they produced win the day in every debate on clean anything be it air water or biosphere. The state officials just look the other way whenever one of their major contributors pollute. When the EPA comes around to tell them to clean up their act, there is a big stink about it and the state officials always put up a show of grand-standing and claim they will “run the EPA out of the state” and so it goes.

    Whenever the fed comes up with a social program to relieve the poor from utter devastation at the hands of the state ~ either by refusing to help them or because the draconian statutes of the state are causing them harm ~ state does what it is doing right now, screaming that it is a victim of the fed violating “states’ rights”.
    I also agree with one of the comments on the article page that claims that the corporate mining entities should use their own money to clean up their damned mess and not even consider asking for public funds to do it. They should be required by law to set aside funds, maybe by putting up the funds before they even get started, for cleanup and whatever might be a disadvantage to the environment and the public’s health.

    1. JimT Avatar

      Harry Reid declared reform of the Mining Law of 1872 is dead for this year. No big surprise there, and he had cover because of the health care battle. So, another year at least of corporate giveaways of public land resources, often to foreign corporations, and no accountability. If you are interested in mining, check out Earthworks website.

    2. Elkchaser Avatar

      Obviously, you haven’t spent much time in Soda Springs. Your statement about the air quality there is 100% false.

  2. Chris Harbin Avatar
    Chris Harbin

    “And then last August at least 18 head of cattle died from eating selenium-contaminated forage at the Simplot owned Lanes Creek Mine, virtually at the headwaters of the Blackfoot River. These fatalities only added to the tally of hundreds of head of livestock already killed by selenium contamination.”
    I thought wolves were responsible for so many cattle deaths. HA! Kinds puts the numbers in perspective.

  3. Alan Gregory Avatar

    I remember motoring to American Falls in the fall of 1974 for my newspaper internship (Power County Press) and driving past the phosphate plants. The particulate matter would coat any all all outside objects, like cars, whenever it rained.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      It is important to note, however, that the FMC elemental phosphorous plant did go out of business and it was probably 80 – 90 per cent of the problem.

      Simplot’s “Don” phosphate fertilizer plant continues to pollute, but it is a much smaller source. The air quality in Pocatello is much better than in the 1970s, 80s or 90s. Of course, it’s a long way from perfect.

  4. monty Avatar

    For all of those who rage aganist “government health care socialism” I would remind them that socialism is alive and well in southeast Idaho. Any business, including the mining industry, who “mine the wealth” and leave the cleanup costs to society is the worst form of socialism.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Yes privatize the benefits and socialize the costs. You are so right. Why don’t tea partiers see that?

    2. JimT Avatar

      Because the whole Tea Party thing is just a re-packaging of racism, homophobia and state’s rights. It has nothing to do with anything substantive…just venomous outpourings of hatred.

  5. monty Avatar

    Ralph & JimT: Amen!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan