After several weeks of anxiety for one of Star Valley’s largest employers, the Simplot Smoky Canyon Mine was given permission by the courts to proceed with their planned expansion. Litigation brought to bear by environmental groups alleging impact to the surrounding area had thrown the decision into doubt and brought the issue to the front and center of many area employees.
A federal magistrate judge has ruled that the J.R. Simplot Company may resume its preparatory site work to expand its Smoky Canyon phosphate mine in southeastern Idaho.
U.S. Magistrate Mikel H. Williams ordered that site work, temporarily halted pending motions from both sides, could resume as of Friday, May 22. The intervening period allows for an appeal of his decision by the plaintiff special interest groups to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Simplot Company senior vice president and general counsel, Terry Uhling, said he hopes the judge’s decision, the second in favor of mine expansion since last November, will put an end to legal maneuvering that has prevented opening new sections at Smoky Canyon.
“During the past 10 years, we have shown in court and in many public meetings that expansion at Smoky Canyon is environmentally sound and provides the country with a mineral that is considered vital to national interests,” Uhling stated. “We have also proven that continued operation of the mine is economically important for the many communities that provide employees.”
For a more detailed report of the court decision, see the relating story in the May 21 edition of the Star Valley Independent.