Idaho cobalt mine is a harbinger of what’s to come – by Kylie Mohr (High Country News – October 21, 2022)

A new venture near Salmon signals an uptick in hardrock mining across the West.

Idaho’s Cobalt Belt is a 34-mile-long desirable stretch of ore tucked under the Salmon River Mountains that’s considered “globally significant” by mining companies. And miners are interested in that cobalt: a hard, brittle metal used in electric vehicle batteries. On Oct. 7, Australia-based Jervois Global opened the only cobalt mine in the U.S. there to much fanfare.

The new mine, which will be at full operating capacity in 2023, is part of a burgeoning Western mineral rush. These modern prospectors are focused on so-called green metals like cobalt, copper, lithium, nickel and rare earth elements that are used in clean energy applications.

Projects in the works range from copper and manganese mines in Arizona to a proposed lithium mine in Nevada. Jervois’ Idaho Cobalt Operations is unique in its focus: cobalt is usually a byproduct of nickel or copper and not a mine’s primary objective.

Demand for these minerals has ballooned in the last several decades. “We’re producing more metal than we ever have done at any other point in human history,” said Simon Jowitt, an economic geologist at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “Modern life uses more metals and minerals than ever before.”

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