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Idaho Cobalt Operations opens in the Salmon-Challis National Forest

SALMON, Idaho (KIFI) - Like energy resources of the past, the future will be mined here in the heart of the Salmon Challis National Forest.

Australian-based Jervois Global Ltd. is opening the first primary cobalt mine in the United States in nearly 50 years. Cobalt is one of the most important minerals of the 21 century for its applications in clean energy and military use.

"It's one of the most important materials that go into batteries for electric vehicles and for battery storage. But it's also important to the national defense. It's really important in many of our military applications and in particular, jet engines. So it's both important for the energy transition and our national security."

China currently dominates global cobalt supply chains. While countries, like Australia, are highly competitive, the United States still relies on china's supply.

This mine is looking to change that.

"It's critically important that we have resources that come from this country," said D.O.E Under Secretary for Science and Innovation Geri Richmond. "And we also need to be developing collaborations with allies such as Australia who share our values of democracy, of respect and dignity for our workers and environmental responsibility."

Foreign mines don't adhere to the same environmental or health standards. For example, cobalt mines in the Congo are known to cause environmental and health risks. Idaho Cobalt Operations plans to work to national standards of environmental protection.

"This is their backyard. This is where they hunt is where they fish. It's where they do their recreation. It's where they work," Jervois Global CEO Bryce Crocker said. "Everyone is making sure that we get a more appropriate way."

To mine in challis, the state required Jervois to build a water treatment plant, which would protect streams and groundwater in the event mining contaminates runoff. Although the owners of the mine have designed it in such a way that they hope they'll never have to use it.

"We've designed this entire operation to minimize the footprint. and using the underground mining method that we are, we can really limit our disturbance as well as the engineering techniques that we use," Lengerich said.

"We can extract the cobalt, backfill all of the underground workings and protect the natural resources that exist right here on this site."

While the mine takes environmental stewardship, Salmon receives the benefits of the mining industry.

"Wherever the mining industry is in Idaho, those are almost always the top-paying jobs..." Idaho Governor Brad Little said. "Then you get the benefit of this as a strategic, critical mineral that America needs to be competitive in the world."

Officials expect the mine to be fully functional in 60 to 90 days.

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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