Aussie firm rejects claims of planning to mine for rare earth in Idaho
Australian MMG Limited (HKG:1208), which has plans to develop a mine at Hall Mountain, Idaho, is disputing reports that claim it is planning to mine rare earth elements and thorium in the northern part of the state, near the Canadian border.
According to the company, the U.S. Forest Service granted MMG permission last week to conduct exploratory drilling at eight locations, which will be focused solely on zinc. The work is expected to start in July.
“MMG is not searching for rare earth elements or thorium. Further, our exploration program is preliminary in nature and consists of only three initial drill holes using a single drill rig,” Sally Cox, general manager of stakeholder relations at MMG, was quoted as saying by Bonner County Daily Bee.
Opponents to the mine's possible development, add the article, are however convinced the search for zinc is cover for assessing rare earth element deposits.
Based on data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, there is an estimated 104,300 metric tons of thorium and rare earth element-rich veins in Hall Mountain.
The Idaho Conservation League tried to stop the exploratory drilling out of concern it would displace threatened grizzly bears.
Thorium is a radioactive element and mining it may introduce radionuclides and other contaminants into the environment at an unnaturally high rate, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"Besides the radioactive materials that you end up with, you've got a huge amount of nasty toxics like cadmium. It makes arsenic look like candy,” resident Ronald McLaughlin told CDAPress.com. "It's ugly stuff."
Melbourne-based MMG’s exploratory work includes soil and rock sampling, stream sediment sampling and geophysical surveying, according to a Forest Service scoping notice.
If the company’s finds mineralization of value, it would be required to submit another proposed plan of operations to conduct further exploration or develop the mine.