Public input is sought by federal agencies on a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed 430-acre expansion of the Thompson Creek molybdenum mine in Custer County near Clayton.
According to a news release issued by the Bureau of Land Management on March 21, the current surface disturbance at the Thompson Creek Mine is 2,800 acres. The proposed expansion would increase the surface disturbance by 350 acres on federal lands and on 80 acres on private land.
Construction of the Thompson Creek Mine began in 1981. It has been producing molybdenum concentrate commercially since November 1983. Molybdenum is used to strengthen steel and create high-performance lubricants.
Mining is currently authorized through 2016 at the rate of approximately 30,000 tons of ore per day. The proposed expansion would allow production to continue at the same rate until 2025.
Ken Gardner, project leader at the BLM Challis Field Office, said environmental impact statements for the mine conducted in 1980 and 1999 evaluated numerous effects to soil, forestry resources, wildlife, range resources, aquatic and fisheries resources, air quality, public access and socioeconomic factors, all of “which have largely occurred.”
Thompson Creek Mining Co. is typically the largest employer in Custer County, employing about 200 people today, Gardner said. The number of employees has fluctuated with the degree of activity at the mine.
Gardner said the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are also concerned the mine expansion could affect their tribal treaty rights to hunt, fish, gather and exercise other traditional uses and practices in the area.
“The only material environmental issue that has developed since the mine began operations is the need for long-term (post-reclamation) water treatment,” Gardner said. “With advances in scientific knowledge and the amount of water-quality data collected at the mine, it is the third (current) EIS for the mine that for the first time will evaluate in detail the potential effects of the mine to long-term water quality.”
Thompson Creek Mining Co. has also proposed a land exchange of approximately 5,100 acres of public land administered by the BLM Challis Field Office for approximately 900 acres of private lands owned by the company.
The public land proposed for exchange contains the southern portion of the mine. The private lands proposed for exchange consists of the Broken Wing Ranch, six miles northeast of Clayton, and the Garden Creek property, 16 miles south of Pocatello in Bannock County.
In response, the BLM proposes to amend the 1999 Challis Resource Management Plan to identify the public land in the proposed exchange as suitable for disposal pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended, BLM officials said.
Public comments received on the draft EIS will be used to prepare a final EIS, which will be the basis for the BLM and Forest Service to issue decisions. Copies of the draft EIS are available in the Challis Field Office at 1151 Blue Mountain Road in Challis, from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except federal holidays. Copies of the draft EIS are also be available online at www.blm.gov/id/st/en/prog/nepa_register/TCM-exlx_EIS.html.
To ensure comments will be considered, the BLM must receive written comments on the draft EIS by June 18. Comments can be emailed to BLM_ID_TCM_EIS@blm.gov; faxed to (208) 879-6210 (please reference “TCM EIS”); or mailed to TCM EIS, Bureau of Land Management, Challis Field Office, 1151 Blue Mountain Road, Challis, Idaho 83226.
Two public meetings have been scheduled at the following locations and times: Challis Community Event Center at 411 Clinic Road, in Challis, on May 13, from 6-8 p.m., and at the BLM Boise District Office, 3948 Development Ave., in Boise, on May 14, from 6-8 p.m.