Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Caribou County News


Federal Government Begins Distribution of Draft Environmental Impact Statement Regarding Monsanto’s Proposal to Construct Environmentally Advanced Phosphate Mine

SODA SPRINGS-- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management started distribution of a draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding a proposal by P4 Production LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Monsanto Company, to open one of North America’s most environmentally advanced phosphate mines. It will provide elemental phosphorus used in making the world’s leading agricultural herbicide and other important products.

“The environmental safeguards will protect the nearby Blackfoot River from any detectable increases in selenium, a mineral that is of concern in phosphate mining,” said David W. Farnsworth, Business Unit Lead, Mineral Activities.

The BLM, which must approve the project, is distributing the draft Environmental Impact Statement to public repositories and interested parties. General public notice of the report’s availability is expected to be published August 14 in the Federal Register. The agency will be seeking public comment over a 45-day time period.

“We welcome this pubic review and look forward to working with the BLM and other agencies to answer all questions forthrightly,” Farnsworth said.

He said the Environmental Impact Statement includes discussion of several engineering alternatives to minimize the release of selenium from the mining operations. Monsanto favors a more stringent and expensive alternative, including covering selenium-bearing waste rock at the proposed mine with a laminated geosynthetic clay liner (GCL) that is essentially impervious to water. The agencies involved with preparing the Draft EIS, which includes BLM and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, identify this option as their preferred alternative.

“Complex, detailed modeling conducted by BLM shows this is the best alternative to manage the selenium issue,” Farnsworth said, adding that there would also be a overlying layer of three feet of soil and other materials in addition to the geosynthetic liner.

Only a tiny volume of water from rain and snow could pass through the waste rock and it would be insufficient to wash out the selenium, he explained, adding that the water management systems are designed to provide further protection. Water that could run off from the mine site will be captured, analyzed and pumped to large lined ponds for testing. If the levels of selenium are too high, the water can be evaporated or treated. Only water meeting all appropriate water quality standards will be allowed to leave the mine site, Farnsworth said.

Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential for good health. Too much selenium, however, can be harmful to animals, fish and other wildlife.

Farnsworth said: “The cover design is intended to prevent any such harmful impacts from this project.”

The proposed mine will be restored with a diverse ecosystem of some 20 species of introduced and native grasses, wildflowers and other vegetation

“We also construct special habitat on reclaimed mine sites to give protective cover to small insects and animals that, in turn, are food for hawks, eagles and a rich assortment of other birds that inhabit the area,” said Michael Vice, Monsanto’s reclamation specialist. “As a result, we create a diverse ecosystem that encourages a large and thriving population of mammals, birds, insects and other living creatures.”

Monsanto has been recognized for its past efforts at reclaimed mine sites by the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Lands. Monsanto’s past reclaimed sites are certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, which provides advice and review of corporate lands to enhance their usefulness and value for wildlife.

In all, the proposed mining site would include about 739 acres, of which only about 10 percent is in public ownership, and which is already nearby existing mine sites.

Phosphorus from Monsanto’s proposed mine will be used to make Roundup® brand herbicides. It is also used in other industries to make fire retardants, leavening agents, aviation fluid, carbonated beverages and many other products. The mine is needed by P4 in 2010 to continue P4’s normal operations.

The Soda Springs phosphate ore-processing plant has been operating since 1952 and has received ore from four phosphate mines in Southeast Idaho since that time. Monsanto employs about 770 people in Southeast Idaho. Annually, the company spends $115 million in Idaho for wages, salaries and payments to local vendors. Utilizing an economic multiplier to consider the indirect economic effect on the Idaho economy, the business produces an estimated $230 million annual economic impact on the state.

It pays nearly $3 million in state and local taxes, and millions more in state and federal royalty payments, which are shared with counties and schools.

More information about the project can be found at www.monsanto.com/sodasprings.
Copies of the draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available to the public in a number of locations, including:

Soda Springs City Library
149 South Main
Soda Springs, ID 83276

U.S. Forest Service
Soda Springs Ranger District
410 East Hooper
Soda Springs, ID 83276


BLM / Forest Service Office
4350 Cliffs Drive
Pocatello, ID 83205

The entire draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found on the BLM Web site, which is www.blm.gov/id/st/en/info/nepa/Pocatello/blackfoot_mine_deis.html

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