The mining of rare earth and critical mineral deposits within the state’s economy is part of an ongoing research series by the Idaho Department of Labor on how Idaho is affected by the geo-economic and geo-political interrelationships. The Idaho Geological Survey, labor market analysis, as well as environmental and economic impact scenarios of the state’s mining sector will also be examined.
High atop Idaho’s picturesque Salmon-Challis national forest sits the Cobalt Belt of Idaho, an important mining district for some of the world’s critical minerals and rare earth elements. This special grouping of locally mined esoteric minerals has noteworthy economic, geologic, political, technical and environmental dimensions of availability .
“Critical minerals” is an early 20th-century military-industrial term still in use and revamped for the 21st-century green economy . Critical minerals mining in Idaho’s Cobalt Belt and other parts of the state is seeing a resurgence as the nation moves toward energy self-sufficiency with select natural resources. Some of the raw materials like cobalt and antimony are needed to store energy in electric vehicle batteries, among many other technological applications, and they are found exclusively in Idaho mines and nowhere else in the United States. Continue reading