“Not in my backyard” has become the customary response of anti-development environmental groups, especially to natural resource extraction projects. These groups selectively oppose projects due to extenuating circumstances they assert to include environmental risks, sensitive locations and critical habitat for a specific species. Their true agenda is “Not now, not here, not ever!” which jeopardizes global environmental issues while promoting their fundraising campaigns.
Idaho’s CuMo Project, one of the world’s largest molybdenum deposits, has undergone decades of research and exploration since 1968. Exploratory core drilling was halted in 2012 due to legal challenges and lawsuits brought by anti-development groups.
A lawsuit in 2015 prompted U.S. Forest Service studies which have been documented in a recent Supplemental Information Report. The SIR underpins the current National Environmental Protection Act scoping — an early step in the NEPA process to determine the scope of issues to be addressed in an environmental study.
NEPA analysis is imperative to maintaining safe, sustainable and profitable strategic mineral exploration. However, environmental groups leverage outdated concepts, misinformation and even falsehoods to mislead stakeholders and disrupt the process. For example, current NEPA scoping is soliciting public comments on mineral exploration at the CuMo Project, but opponents have framed their messaging around the development of an open-pit mine to activate their supporters.
Mineral exploration is an arduous process. Each phase builds on the last until a project reaches a decision point which can either be to terminate the exploration or proceed to production. CuMo Project is in advanced exploration phase — collecting critical data and answering important questions to reach that decision point. Until that time, mine development is uncertain.
While environmental groups falsely claim that wildfires have made the project area too sensitive for exploration and that the Sacagawea’s Bitterroot is only found on the CuMo property, U.S. manufacturing, national security and global environmental matters lay in the balance. The United States is 100 percent dependent on other countries for 20 strategic minerals and 50 percent dependent on 30 more minerals.
Molybdenum, a mineral that is critical to national defense for armoring vehicles, water vessels and aircraft, is overwhelmingly produced and controlled by China. Furthermore, negative environmental impacts of extracting and producing molybdenum in China are substantially greater due to lax regulations and the absence of corporate accountability.
In the global perspective, allowing safe and sustainable domestic production of strategic minerals has the least negative impact on the environment and supports U.S. defense and national security priorities. Environmental groups, government agencies, elected officials and the mining industry must come together to make strategic mineral exploration and development in the United States the all-around best option.
The Unites States Forest Service is accepting comments on its scoping letter regarding the CuMo Project through Jan. 8. Supportive comments may move the CuMo Project past this phase and closer to realizing its potential in the global economy.