Although the cobalt mine isn’t due to start operations until mid-2022, Jervois Mining is starting to make new friends in conservation circles by supporting a new fund to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat in the Upper Salmon River Basin.

Jervois’ Idaho Cobalt Operations and the Idaho Conservation League have joined forces to create the Upper Salmon Conservation Action Program. Jervois plans to contribute $150,000 into the program each year its cobalt mine is in operation. The cobalt mine is located about 25 miles west of Salmon. The mine is expected to operate for seven years and mostly produce cobalt and copper, employing several hundred people.

“This new program will provide real, tangible benefits to the basin’s water quality, habitat, fish, and wildlife,” said Justin Hayes, executive director of Idaho Conservation League. “The projects this program will fund and the benefits they will provide are separate from and go above and beyond what is required from federal and state regulatory agencies to protect our public lands. (Idaho Conservation League) will maintain an active relationship with Jervois to help direct use of the program funds to restore and protect critical habitat for fish and wildlife, while separately continuing to monitor already-permitted mining operations at the (Idaho Cobalt Operations).”

Theresa Hughes, environmental specialist at Jervois Mining, said the new program is separate from and unrelated to the mitigation measures and other regulatory requirements connected to the mine.

“One of the key parts of this program that we see is critical for having a successful program is community engagement,” Hughes said. “We want to communicate with Lemhi County, Custer County residents, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, the Nez Perce Tribe, the local conservation groups, local environmental groups, everyone who has an interest in conservation-related work in this area. We want to get their input on what the priorities need to be.”

The Conservation League said representatives from the league and Jervois will annually, beginning this spring, solicit and select proposals from interested parties in the region.

“All of the funds, which will be held in a dedicated account by Jervois, will be put towards on-the-ground projects,” the league said. “The projects may involve activities such as removing barriers to fish passage, improving spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead, and restoring surrounding streamside habitat.”

The Australia-based Jervois said cobalt is ultimately tied to a greener world and energy production because the mineral is a key component of electric vehicle batteries and is required in the construction of jet airplane engines and land-based turbines for wind power generation. The Idaho cobalt mine will be the only operating cobalt mine in the U.S. Jervois recently announced the acquisition of a nickel-cobalt refinery in Brazil.

“This will allow Jervois to control the refining of cobalt and return final product to U.S. customers, ahead of when the U.S. has its own cobalt refinery,” Hughes said.