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Photo Credit: EcoFlight. Photo of a similar Simplot mine a few miles from the Dairy Syncline proposed site.

Dairy Syncline Mine – Privatization of public lands

Dairy Syncline Mine

Idaho will soon be swimming in two-headed trout if the J.R. Simplot Company gets its way. The company has proposed privatizing public lands as part of its plan to develop an open pit phosphate mine (the Dairy Syncline Mine) in southeastern Idaho. Selenium—a mineral brought to the surface by phosphate mining—has already mutated trout fry downstream of an existing Simplot mine. The Dairy Syncline Mine threatens even greater environmental destruction.

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Dairy Syncline Mine Location

Dairy Syncline Mine

A proposed mine threatens selenium contamination and deadly consequences for wildlife.

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Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service


Dairy Syncline Mine – The Details

The J.R. Simplot Company is looking to privatize public lands as part of its plan for another open pit phosphate mine in southeastern Idaho. While Simplot owns two leases underneath the Caribou National Forest that give it rights to mine for phosphate, the multi-national corporation wants federal land for the mine’s tailings pond. Simplot has proposed exchanging 640 acres of its own land nearby for 631 acres of Caribou National Forest land, and purchasing 1,142 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Federal law prohibits tailings ponds on National Forest lands, and BLM policy also discourages such facilities on the public lands it manages, so Simplot is banking on privatization to get its mine up and running.

Phosphate is a primary material used in the production of fertilizer. Monsanto also uses phosphate in manufacturing its Roundup™ herbicide. Southeastern Idaho, already home to two phosphate mining-related Superfund sites, is a primary phosphate source in the U.S. Earlier phosphate mining has unearthed toxic levels of selenium that killed horses, cattle and hundreds of sheep. It is especially deadly to aquatic egg-bearing animals, including native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, the prized game fish and iconic species of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Two segments of the local Blackfoot River and 15 of its tributaries are contaminated by selenium well in excess of Idaho’s legal limit.

The Forest Service and BLM are currently evaluating Simplot’s proposal. Although Simplot’s two leases convey a right to mine, the Forest Service and BLM are obligated to deny the land exchange and sale if the transactions are not in the public interest. WildEarth Guardians is working closely with allies to review the proposal and ensure that public interests, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat are protected.

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Public Lands Privatization Schemes

Learn more about the public lands at risk across the United States.

Dairy Syncline Mine

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Southeast Idaho

Village at Wolf Creek

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Southwest Colorado

Resolution Copper Mine

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Central Arizona

Ray Mine Expansion

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Central Arizona

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