Emerald Creek Garnet Ltd. has received a federal permit to mine industrial-grade garnets from approximately 328 acres near Fernwood, Idaho.
Centuries ago, an ancient lake washed garnet crystals out of the nearby hills, leaving a layer of garnet-rich gravels in the upper St. Maries River Valley.
The six- and eight-sided almandite garnets are prized for their hardness. Emerald Creek sells them worldwide for cutting, polishing and water filtration.
The new permit will allow Emerald Creek to expand its existing operation. The company, a subsidiary of Western Garnet International of Coeur d’Alene, will mine the 328 acres over 20 years.
About 133 acres of wetlands will be disturbed. Emerald Creek Garnet will mine about six to eight acres of wetlands each year. The Army Corps of Engineers permit requires the company to restore the wetlands as they are mined. Emerald Creek must also create 29 acres of new wetlands, and create a conservation easement along the river to protect water quality.
Without the permit to expand, the company would have run out of garnets to mine within two years, according to corps documents.
Western Garnet also mines garnets in India, through its Bengal Bay Garnet subsidiary.
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