Three conservation organizations have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s 2019 approval of a Caribou County phosphate mine planned to supply ore for Bayer AG’s Soda Springs operations.

Attorneys with Boise-based Advocates for the West — representing Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians — argue the company’s Caldwell Canyon Mine would develop nearly 1,600 acres of important sage grouse habitat.

In addition to the wildlife concerns, the organizations allege in their lawsuit, which was filed on April 27 and will be handled by U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, that regulators failed to adequately evaluate the potential for the mine to contaminate the environment with toxic levels of selenium.

Phosphate from the open-pit mine will be made into glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide — at the Soda Springs plant. The mine would be operated by the Bayer subsidiary P4 Production LLC, and would yield an estimated 40-year supply of ore.

In a statement issued in response to the lawsuit, Bayer officials said the application received overwhelming support from the community during the permitting process.

“Nearly 100% of the public comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management during the permitting process were positive and supportive,” Bayer officials said in the press release. “Bayer has worked collaboratively and transparently with the Soda Springs community, conservation groups and other key stakeholders throughout the permitting process to ensure the sustainability of our new mine.”

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