An Australian mining company will conduct exploratory drilling this summer on Forest Service land in Boundary County near the Canadian border.
MMG Ltd. is looking for lead, zinc and nickel deposits in the Hall Mountain area, said Jason Kirchner, a spokesman for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Based on past geologic surveys, there may also be some rare earth minerals in the area, such as thorium.
Company officials anticipate three to five years of exploratory drilling before they know if there’s enough mineralization for a viable mine operation, Kirchner said. If the company decides to pursue a mine, they would be required to go through an extensive environmental review process, he said.
Drilling will start in July, creating eight holes about six inches in diameter. Company officials will drill to depths of about 2,000 feet, and will be required to plug the holes afterward. The drilling area is about two mile south of the Canadian border and three miles east of State Highway 1.
MMG Ltd. did past mineral surveys in the area, taking surface samples.
This summer’s drilling will take place within habitat for federally protected grizzly bears. The Idaho Conservation League initially filed an objection to the project, raising concerns that mechanical sounds from the drilling operation would displace the bears, keeping them from using critical habitat.
However, the league met with company officials, who agreed to use physical sound barriers to reduce how far the noise travels. That satisfied the Idaho Conservation League’s concerns about impacts on grizzlies, said John Robison, the nonprofit’s public lands director.
MMG Ltd.’s website lists corporate offices in Australia and Hong Kong. The company has mining operations in Australia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Laos.