New mining at old sites in Idaho bring promise and concern

Joshua Murdock

New mining projects seeking ultra-rare elements at formerly abandoned mine sites along tributaries to Idaho’s Salmon River offer to boost the United States’ domestic supply chain for things like electric vehicles, fire retardants and weapons. 

But tribes and environmental groups worry that expanded mining at one site — already severely contaminated — will increase contamination near and in a legendary wild river. 

One project, the Stibnite Gold Project, is poised to conduct open-pit mining for gold and antimony near Yellow Pine, Idaho, about 72 miles west-southwest of Salmon and 57 miles southwest of the Idaho-Montana border west of Lost Trail Pass. Antimony is a semi-metal used in flame-retardant fabrics and composites, and alloys are used in batteries, ammunition, solder, electrical cable and weighted sailboat hulls.

The project is proposed for an abandoned open-pit mine that produced gold and tungsten, the latter of which was used to harden metal armor used in World War II. The new mine would be the only mine in the U.S. primarily producing antimony. Half of the new mining would take place at the old mine site; the other half would take place on previously undisturbed landscape. The mine is projected to produce 4.8 million

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