Idaho Project a Flashpoint of Environmentalists’ Drag on Economic Progress
This month a seminar hosted by RealClear Politics sounded yet another alarm regarding America’s highly troubling overreliance on importing critical minerals from adversarial nations. As demand for minerals skyrockets in our tech-centered economy, U.S. dependence on foreign supply from nations such as China has doubled over the last 25 years, a situation that leaves us extremely vulnerable to trade tensions or global hostilities.
Confounding the situation is that America has more than ample resources within our borders to be almost completely independent of foreign imports, but environmental activists on the national and local level have denied us this moment through a radical zero-tolerance stance on mining that rejects even the most beneficial and advantageous projects.
The concerted attack on mining redounds to our entire economy, which will be even more dependent on critical minerals as we recover from Covid. Instead of supporting policies that will help boost jobs and growth post-Covid, green activists instead have sought to exploit and leverage the crisis and its dire impact as idyllic for a “greener future.” A flashpoint of the battle between economic recovery and the environmental agenda is now on display in Idaho, where a significant investment in the nationally crucial Stibnite Gold Project is underway.
In development for more than ten years by Midas Gold, the Stibnite Gold Project is a “pioneering” undertaking grounded in community partnerships within the historic Stibnite Mining District, an abandoned legacy brownfields mining site. This site has sat idle for decades, a testament to environmental blight and wasted economic capital.
And while the mining district may be a mess of fouled salmon streams, spent ore waste, and abandoned mining pits, below the surface exists one of the largest deposits of gold and antimony in the country. Antimony, some may recall, is a critical mineral used for everything from defense and aerospace to consumer electronics; the fact that America is largely dependent upon China for its supply provides further insight into the economic value of this project.
By all measures Stibnite represents the ideal economic undertaking. It turns waste into value, boosts state economic development, creates critical jobs, initiates environmental cleanup, and weans America from foreign dependence on critical minerals central to industry and national defense. Amid the most severe economic downturn of our lives, it’s a shovel-ready economic bolt from the blue.
But the radical environmentalists are having none of it. Funded by the deep pockets of national “green” organizations zealously opposed to anything related to mining, they are wholly prepared to eliminate the enormous economic and environmental benefits of this project merely to make an ideological point. And Stibnite is far from an isolated incident; the same blueprint of protests and court battles is underway in opposition to the Pebble Mine in Alaska, making good on their threats that no mining, energy, or exploration project will go unchallenged.
Despite the misinformation regarding mining being promulgated by its environmentalist opponents, Midas Gold’s proposal would use modern, heavily regulated mining to responsibly extract hundreds of millions of pounds of valuable domestic resources. Proceeds of the mining activities would also be used to reclaim the land and water damaged by earlier and largely unregulated mining.
The company has already invested more than $200 million in exploring, evaluating, and planning the Stibnite Gold Project, including roughly $90 million in the state of Idaho. If the radical eco-warriors succeed they will not only sink these investments but over $1 billion more that will follow to cover operations; an outright hostile position to take toward communities desperate for jobs and development that also delivers a black eye to kick starting crucial infrastructure projects across the nation.
And again, the Department of Defense considers antimony to be one of the most important “critical minerals” to our national security. We need it desperately – and we currently produce none of it domestically. The extreme environmentalist agenda would leave us dependent upon China, the world’s leading producer by far, in perpetuity, an absolutely reckless position.
Highlighting just how extreme the opponents of Stibnite are, there is currently no other path toward reclamation or cleanup, meaning the greens are willing to let an environmental hazard remain in place just so it can be prevented from being made economically viable. This is the radical anti-market agenda America’s now-struggling economy is up against, not just in Idaho, but nationwide.
The U.S. Forest Service is in the process of taking public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Stibnite Gold Project. As the comment period moves forward and as the permitting and approval process reaches its conclusion, it’s essential that policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders recognize the vital role reclamation projects play in America's pursuit of natural resources in our economic outlook as they reject the hysterics of the dogmatic environmentalist crowd. The Stibnite Gold Project is good for Idaho and good for our nation, it deserves our support and our utmost attention as a sign of whether America secures a future of critical mineral independence.
Gerard Scimeca is an attorney and co-founder of CASE, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.