In a complaint filed on Tuesday in the District of Idaho, environmental organizations alleged that the United States Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) and Department of the Interior (DOI) should not have approved the Caldwell Canyon Mine, which is an open-pit phosphate mine run by P4Production LLC, a subsidiary of Bayer AG.
According to the complaint, the mine, which takes up over 1,500 acres of undeveloped land, is used to produce glyphosate for use in Bayer’s herbicides. Reportedly, the mine is used to find elemental phosphorus, which is used to manufacture glyphosate at a plant in Soda Springs, Idaho. The glyphosate is later used by Bayer to produce Roundup, a controversial herbicide, which has been the cause of thousands of lawsuits.
The plaintiffs – Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, and Wildearth Guardians – claimed the land that would be developed for the mine is necessary for sage-grouse, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and other animals. Allegedly, the Bureau did not do a sufficient analysis of the environmental impacts of the mine and refining process.
Specifically, the filing claimed that Bureau “failed to take a hard look at potential selenium pollution,” which has killed livestock and had negative effects on birds. The Environmental Impact Statement for the mine said that it would release dust contaminated with selenium, which the plaintiffs purported would contaminate waters in the area, including the Blackfoot River.
The plaintiffs additionally purported that the hazardous waste and indirect environmental effects from processing the ore could contaminate the area’s ground water, citing that remediation efforts from previous hazardous materials are still being cleaned up at the plant in Soda Springs.
“Despite the fact that further deterioration of air, surface water, and ground water quality is reasonably foreseeable from processing phosphate ore at this Soda Springs Plant, (the Bureau) failed to analyze those impacts or use them to inform reasonable alternatives to this project,” the complaint said.
According to the complaint, the Bureau “only reviewed a very narrow set of alternatives to the project,” and neglected to consider some of the alternatives presented during the public comment period by the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs, represented by Advocates for the West and the Center for Biological Diversity, asked the District of Idaho to vacate the approval and rule that the approval violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.