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Simplot mine project moves forward

East Smoky
The tailings pond road near the junction with the Smoky Canyon Road

SODA SPRINGS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The Idaho Falls District Bureau of Land Management and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest have released a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that would approve expansion of a phosphate mine at Smoky Canyon, east of Soda Springs.

A final Record of Decision will be released after a public comment period on the EIS and a draft Record of Decision (ROD). A final ROD is expected to be released later this year.

According to the agencies, the agencies preferred alternative would balance resource extraction and conservation. They said the expansion would provide opportunities for high-paying jobs in the local community.

If finally approved, the East Smoky Panel Mine project would maintain 600 jobs for an additional 3 years at the existing Smoky Canyon Mine and Don Plant processing facility. The project would generate $180 million in salaries and indirectly support 1,326 indirect regional jobs.

J.R. Simplot Company proposed expanding the mine by developing a single, linear open pit in seven sequential phases. Wast rock would be back-filled into previously mined portions of the pit to reduce impacts associated with the mining process.

"Public participation is an important part of the BLM and USFS decision-making process on this proposed project," said District Manager for the BLM Idaho Falls District Mary D'Aversa. "We encourage the public to take advantage of the opportunity to review the BLM and USFS documents and provide us with input on them."

The BLM and Forest Service will make separate, but coordinated decisions. BLM will review Simplot's proposed Mine and Reclamation Plan and decide whether to add acreage to the existing mining lease.

The Forest Service will make recommendations on surface management and mitigation on leased lands within the Caribou-Targhee Forest, determine whether to issues off-lease activities, and determine whether to allow a re-route of an existing utility corridor around the southern portion of the pit.

You can find complete information about the decision here.

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