March 4, 2010 in Idaho, News

Idaho lawmakers mull plan to mint silver medallions

Idea pushed to spur mining jobs
By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho could soon begin minting its own silver currency.

Silver medallions, proposed by state Rep. Phil Hart, are being pushed as a way to jump-start Idaho’s economy and could be used instead of U.S. dollars to pay state taxes.

“There’s a lot of interest in the state of Idaho right now for this kind of thing,” Hart, R-Athol, told the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday.

The committee agreed unanimously to introduce the bill, which also would create income and property tax incentives for anyone setting up a silver processing facility in Idaho. Incentives also would be offered for processing the “principal threat material” cell in the Bunker Hill Superfund site, which Hart said threatens to leak from its containment, essentially a “giant plastic Baggie,” in the coming years and contains valuable materials. “I did talk to one company that would be interested in processing that,” Hart said.

The state Department of Environmental Quality confirmed that there are valuable metals present in the principal threat material, 2 acres of highly contaminated smelter waste that’s buried 15 feet down between impermeable liners on the Bunker Hill Smelter site. But Rob Hanson, mine waste program manager, said, “We don’t have any evidence that it’s leaking.”

Hart introduced a silver medallion bill last year, but it didn’t advance.

This time, he was joined by Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, who told the committee, “This is a good bill, it’s a good bill for our district for sure.”

Hart predicted the measure could help create hundreds of mining jobs.

Said Harwood, “This’d be good for Idaho, it’d be good for the economy and it’d be good for the state.”Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard, made the motion to introduce the bill. “With our budget the way it is,” said Rep. Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls, “to seek opportunities when there’s really true economic stimulus and job creation – this bill goes a long way toward doing those two things.”


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