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Agency seeks comments on Idaho phosphate mine proposal after sage grouse concerns

This July 16, 2009 file photo shows waste rock at the defunct South Maybe Mine in Soda Springs, Idaho.
John Miller
This July 16, 2009 file photo shows waste rock at the defunct South Maybe Mine in Soda Springs, Idaho.

The Bureau of Land Management is gathering public feedback through Friday on a revised proposal for a phosphate mine in southeast Idaho, after a federal judge halted a previous plan for the mine earlier this year.

The BLM initially approved the Caldwell Canyon mine near Soda Springs four years ago, a project proposed by a subsidiary of Bayer AG. Ore extracted from the two open-pit mines over a 40 year lifespan would be used to produce the herbicide glyphosate at the Soda Springs Plant.

In 2021, three environmental groups sued over the project, arguing the BLM failed to adequately address environmental concerns related to sage grouse habitat and water quality in its analysis.

A district court judge agreed with the environmental groups, and, in June, reversed the BLM's approval.

Now, the company P4 Production LLC has submitted a revised version of the proposal, and the BLM is in the process of conducting a new environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act.

During a recent agency webinar, Barry Myers, the project manager with the BLM, said that the current proposal is similar to the previous one.

"It proposes similar activities," he said, "such as modifying lease boundaries, development of open pits, construction of haul roads and access roads and various other features."

Prior to the judge's reversal, the company began construction at the Soda Springs site, though it did not begin mining. It estimates about 420 acres of the roughly 1,800 acres have already been disturbed.

The BLM is accepting public comments until this Friday. There will be another opportunity to weigh in when the draft environmental impact statement is released next summer. A final decision on the project is expected in early 2025.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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