Smoky Canyon Mine will soon be expanded.
The facility, located on the Idaho-Wyoming border, is one of the largest mining operations in the region. Open-pit phosphate mining constitutes the bulk of Smoky Canyon’s operations.
According to a Bureau Of Land Management news release published by the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation:
SODA SPRINGS – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USDA Forest Service (USFS) on July 28 each released a Record of Decision approving portions of the East Smoky Panel Mine and Reclamation Plan under their jurisdiction.
J.R. Simplot Co. proposed expanding the Smoky Canyon Mine into the East Smoky Panel using a design intended to reduce certain impacts associated with the phosphate mining process.
“Phosphate mining in southeast Idaho is critical to provide minerals for use in products that support agriculture, wildfire suppression, and other industries in Idaho and elsewhere and to contribute to the region’s economy,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “This joint decision will ensure that these benefits continue for years to come.”
The East Smoky Panel Mine project will sustain approximately 600 jobs for an additional three years at Simplot’s existing Smoky Canyon Mine and Don Plant processing facility, generating approximately $180 million per year in associated salaries and indirectly supporting 1,326 jobs in the region.
Simplot Agribusiness estimates they currently spend “$39.4 million in local communities for goods and services such as diesel fuel, large equipment parts and repair, tires, restaurants and caterers…in addition, $22.4 million is channeled annually into the economies of local communities–primarily Afton, Wyoming, and Soda Springs, Idaho–through employee salaries, wages, and benefits.”
“The decision strikes a balance between resource extraction and conservation, while providing opportunities for high-paying jobs in the local community,” said Mary D’Aversa, BLM’s Idaho Falls district manager. “We are pleased that we were able to work with the USFS, Simplot, and the public to come to a decision that provides for responsible phosphate mining.”
The BLM and the USFS used the final East Smoky Panel Mine environmental impact statement to make separate, coordinated decisions related to the proposed project. The record of decision released by the BLM approves the mine and reclamation plan, modifies the existing Smoky Canyon Mine and reclamation plan and enlarges the existing leases.
The USFS provided recommendations to the BLM regarding surface management on leased national forest system lands. The USFS record of decision approves special use authorizations for off-lease activities and approves amendments to its land-use plan to add management prescriptions and designate utility corridors.
All of the ore mined at Smoky Canyon is processed at Simplot’s Pocatello Don Plant and used in fertilizer production. Simplot uses an impressive 87-mile undergound pipeline to pump the slurry- made up of phosphate ore and water- to Pocatello for processing.