Mines and Minerals

Current Mining Activity
  Mining is an important part of Idaho’s economy. Every year the Survey canvasses current mining activity throughout the state and publishes a review of mining and exploration.
 
Inactive and Abandoned Mines
  Mining has long since stopped in many parts of the state, but the old mines may now be hazardous to the environment and to life and limb. The Survey is working to identify these problem sites.
 
Mine Histories
  Production histories of past mines
 
Mineral Property Files
  The Idaho Geological Survey maintains files on several thousand mining properties in the state. Digitally scanned copies of records in its Mineral Property Files are available.
 
Search the IGS Mines and Prospects Database 
  Search the Idaho Geological Survey's Mines and Prospects database online
 

 

Idaho’s Mineral Resources

Idaho Geological Survey.  The Idaho Geological Survey is the lead agency for collecting and disseminating geologic information and mineral data in the state. It has offices in Moscow, Boise, and Pocatello. Staff geologists conduct applied research with a strong emphasis on producing geologic maps and providing technical and general information on the State’s various geologic settings, earth resources, and geologic hazards. Much of the research is conducted through cooperative programs with federal agencies and applies to the growing development and use of land and water in Idaho.

Mineral Resources Programs.  Minerals, both metals and industrial minerals, are indispensable to our modern lifestyle, and the United States is a major consumer of both mineral and energy  resources. The Idaho Geological Survey, a non-regulatory agency, works with federal and state agencies and private industry to provide unbiased technical information and conduct applied research on the state’s metallic and industrial mineral resources. It also assists private citizens in accessing that information for both mineral exploration and commerce. The Idaho Geological Survey is a partner with the U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Resources Program. The Idaho Geological Survey maintains historic information on mines and prospects in Idaho, with a database containing over 8,800 properties. The Survey operates Idaho’s mine safety training in cooperation with the national Mine Safety and Health Administration. Idaho has no current fossil fuel production but has a high potential for undiscovered oil and gas. Geothermal and uranium resources are substantial. The Survey records and maps energy resources.

Idaho Gold

Idaho Mining.  The Survey’s early applied research emphasized economic geology and mining, and dealt with specific mining districts. Mineral resources are not distributed evenly in the earth, but with its varied and complex geologic past, Idaho’s mineral wealth is rich and diverse.

Gold was initially discovered in Idaho in 1860 near Pierce. But the state is best known for its two “world class” mining districts, the fabulous Coeur d’Alene District in northern Idaho and the Western Phosphate Reserve in southeastern Idaho. Over a billion ounces of silver and substantial lead and zinc have been produced in the Coeur d’Alene since 1884, and two deep underground (hard rock) mines are still producing. In southeastern Idaho, near Soda Springs, three large open pit mines extract phosphate ore and process it in three plants to fertilizer or elemental phosphorus. Owing to current high metal prices, Idaho’s non-fuel mineral production value is now $900 million, compared to $269 million in 2003. Idaho ranks second nationally in phosphate and garnet production, third in silver and pumice, and fourth in molybdenum concentrate production.

Thompson Creek molybdemum mine

Metals currently being mined include molybdenum, silver, lead, copper, and gold. Industrial minerals produced included phosphate rock, sand and gravel, cement, crushed stone, limestone, pumice, dimension stone, zeolites, industrial garnet, gemstones, feldspar, and perlite. Mines and quarries provide important jobs to many rural counties. Recent urban growth has increased demand for construction materials, such as cement and sand and gravel for aggregate.

 


Applications of Mineral Resources Information.  Annual reviews of Idaho mining provide basic information used by the exploration industry, product buyers and suppliers, and regulatory, scientific and environmental organizations, and private citizens.


Historically, the Survey’s Mines and Prospects database is the standard starting place for anyone looking for minerals in Idaho. Both prospectors and modern exploration geologists also use geologic maps and studies, such as those published by the Idaho Geological Survey and other agencies. Mineral resources are not randomly distributed, rather different types of mineral resources are localized in specific geologic and structural settings.

Pumice and cultured stone plant in Malad

The Survey’s historical information on mines is also being used to guide projects that inventory  hazards and environmental concerns at inactive and abandoned mines, many of which are decades old. Over 1,600 properties have been evaluated to date by the Survey’s expert personnel in cooperative programs with land management agencies. Knowledge of minerals mined, mining methods and processing techniques, rock types, and fault distributions must be known in detail for risk assessments and development of reclamation plans. However, accurate information on many of the old mines is in danger of being lost without funding for data preservation.

Contact information: Roy Breckenridge, State Geologist and Director Kurt Othberg, Director and Research Geologist Idaho Geological Survey 208-885-7991 igs@uidaho.edu.

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  Idaho Geological Survey     igs@uidaho.edu      (208) 885-7991