U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Idaho Falls District
Phosphate Mining On Public Lands in Idaho
Phosphorus is an important industrial commodity and an essential nutrient for all life, including agricultural crops. Phosphate mining and processing contribute $2 billion in value-added products to the U.S. economy and directly employ over 1200 people in high-paying jobs. Phosphates are used in an array of products, from baked goods and personal care products to fertilizers, textiles and electronics, among others.
Phosphate mining has been an important industry in southeast Idaho since the early 1900s. Today, southeast Idaho's open-pit phosphate mines supply about 15% of the nation's and 4% of the world's phosphate. The BLM Pocatello Field Office is situated at the heart of the Western Phosphate Field – the largest remaining phosphate deposit in the U.S. – and administers the Bureau's largest and most complex non-energy leasable minerals program. The BLM oversees 87 active phosphate leases in eastern Idaho on a total of 43,000 acres.
There are four active phosphate mines in the Pocatello Field Office: Rassmussen Ridge, South Rassmussen, Blackfoot Bridge and Smoky Canyon. The ore produced from these mines feeds industrial plants in Pocatello and Soda Springs that produce phosphate fertilizer and elemental phosphorus.
The BLM Pocatello Field Office is also analyzing the potential environmental impacts of several proposals for new mines or expansions of existing operations. The name of each project is linked to the project page in the NEPA Register.
The BLM is responsible for reviewing, permitting and overseeing phosphate mining that occurs on Federal lands or on lands where the mineral estate is in Federal ownership. Proper analysis of environmental impacts, oversight of active mines, and coordination of reclamation are critical elements in protecting the environment and other resources found on public lands and areas adjacent to them.
Overseeing reclamation is a key element of the BLM's solid minerals program. Bonding requirements are part of the terms of the mineral lease and help ensure adequate reclamation once operations cease.
For more information on the BLM phosphate program in Idaho, contact Sarah Wheeler, Idaho Falls District Public Affairs, (208) 524-7550