In this episode of Engineering Legends, we hear from two special guests at Perpetua Resources, the company spearheading the redevelopment journey of a historic abandoned mining site in Idaho dating back to WWII. This podcast will explore the Stibnite Mine’s long forgotten legacy of being credited for shortening WWII and saving approximately a million American lives, as well as the future in hopes of producing a critical U.S. supply source of the mineral antimony, while also restoring water quality, salmon migration, and boosting the local economy.
See photos of the Stibnite Mine discussed in this episode.
Tiffany Long: Welcome to another episode of Engineering Legends. I’m Tiffany Long here with Kelly Rogers. Everyone loves a good comeback story, and today’s guests from Perpetua Resources will share an intriguing story about a historic mining site in Idaho dating back to World War Two that is now being mined ethically while also being upgraded to today’s environmental standards.
Mckinsey Lyon: We are proposing the Stibnite Gold Project. It’s a project that we’ve been working on since about 2010, in the historic Stibnite Mining District, based on the vision that we can redevelop this abandoned mining site and in doing so, produce both gold and a critical mineral, antimony, while also providing environmental uplift to this abandoned site and the environmental conditions that are there today.
Tiffany Long: You’ll hear about the site’s history and importance to the Second World War and the precious mineral antimony, what it is and why it’s so valuable in modern times, and how this project supports a 100% Made in America supply chain reducing our dependence on China and Russia.
Kelly Rogers: And our guests will also talk about the future of the site and their partnership with the small local town of Yellow Pine, Idaho, and how their current efforts will rectify problems created by the original mine site, including reconnecting a river to support salmon migration and rerouting a road prone to the risk of avalanches. So settle in and enjoy this true American comeback story.
Let’s get started with some introductions.
Mckinsey Lyon: My name is Mckinsey Lyon, and I am the Vice President of External Affairs for Perpetua Resources. I have the pleasure of having now worked on this project since about 2011. So ten years in the making and why it was something that I was attracted to work on because of their very early and proactive approach to community engagement, communications, and restoration.
And that was something that seemed very new at the time for the mining industry and quite honestly, for a lot of industry on how they were being proactive to engage with communities. And it’s something that caught my attention and certainly has pulled me along ever since. I am also an Idaho, girl, I live here in Boise, Idaho, born and raised and multiple generations of my family have been here.
So it’s also a project that it is in my backyard and it’s one that I feel a lot of responsibility to make sure that it’s done right. So that’s me.
Kelly Rogers: It always helps to have that personal connection. Thank you, Mckinsey. Dale?
Dale Kerner: Yes, my name is Dale Kerner. I am a geologist by training. I grew up in Wisconsin and I did my undergraduate in Wisconsin and then I moved to Idaho in 1996 to go to Boise State for graduate school. I’m really glad I moved to Idaho when I did. I have absolutely loved it and I’ve been here ever since.
So I don’t have as deep roots as Mckinsey but I absolutely love this state. I love the area, the topography, the geology, everything. So very happy to be here. And when I did get to Idaho and finished up with school, I became an environmental consultant for about 18 years, and I had a career doing that with many mining clients.
I’ve seen the spectrum of mining clients from very, very good to those who weren’t so good. And one of the things that really impressed me about Midas Gold at the time, now Perpetua Resources, you know, they were around as Mckinsey noted, she was working for them in 2011 and I didn’t join the team until 2017, but they were definitely on my radar as a potential client and it was rather unexpected when I got the call to, to join the team.
But I sure am glad that they did reach out to me and bring me onto the team again. That was in July 2017. So it’s almost five years that I’ve been here but looking at this project and the company it was, it was very clear, abundantly clear that you know, they wanted to make sure that they were doing things in a very different way from a lot of the people, there are a lot of the companies that are out there operating today, you know, to really set the bar at a very high level and, and have a project that would take an approach of restoring a legacy site, a brownfield site, if you will, by leveraging the revenue coming out of the mining operation to do some really great things to a site. That’s a long impact. So my role at Perpetua Resources is that I’m the permitting manager because we are in part on federal land. We are, of course, going through the NEPA process which is an extended process.
Maybe we’ll get to that discussion at some point today. And I did engage on that with some of my other mining clients in Southeast Idaho but it’s a long process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And in addition to our NEPA approval from the Forest Service, which is our lead agency, we’ve got a lot of other permits related to virtually every aspect of our operation.
The most important ones being related to surface and groundwater quality, the quality of the air, the quality of the soil, our impacts to wetlands and to mitigation to compensate for those impacts. There’s just a lot of permits. So for a moment, I think it was 5 or 8 seconds, I thought that I might not have as exciting a life working for a mining company as I did as a consultant or not have the variety, but I was quickly proved wrong and I’m extremely happy to have a very challenging but rewarding job and working with really a great team here at Perpetua Resources.
Tiffany Long: Fantastic. So, could one of you tell us a little bit about Perpetua Resources? Like who are you? What do you do, how long you’ve been in business?
Mckinsey Lyon: I would be happy to. So, Perpetua Resources is a U.S. based company headquartered here in Boise, Idaho. We are proposing the Stibnite Gold Project. It’s a project that we’ve been working on since about 2010. In this historic step, Stibnite Mining District and we have created our plan for this project based on the vision that we can redevelop this abandoned mining site and in doing so produce both gold and a critical mineral antimony.
But like Dale mentioned, also provide environmental uplift to this abandoned site and the environmental conditions that are there today. While doing that, we can also help fuel the green or clean energy transition through providing the critical mineral antimony to the U.S. market and partner and bring value to our local communities. And it’s a big vision. But in the last ten years, we’ve been taking very concrete steps to bring it into reality.
And if I were to describe the three things that make this project and our approach unique, you know, first is the fact that we are on this abandoned mine site, that we’ve identified an opportunity to go back to a brownfield redevelop it and in doing so, improve environmental conditions at site and bring that investment that’s really desperately needed into a site where today’s environmental conditions and legacies that have been left behind include water quality that’s been very heavily degraded by millions of tons of unlined legacy tailings left over from mining that occurred really over the last century by other parties.
And then also the fact that today the east fork of the south fork of the Salmon River flows into an abandoned mining pit that has blocked salmon migration for well over 80 years. And our plan is designed to both improve water quality and reconnect fish migration, along with many other uplifts to the environmental conditions at site. And then secondly, you know, antimony, we get to be the only U.S. producer, which is essential both for our technology industries, for the clean energy transition as a component of long duration storage batteries.
Kelly Rogers: Well, let’s dig into it a little bit. I’d like you to describe exactly what antimony is and why it’s important.
Mckinsey Lyon: Absolutely. I’ll take the first part of this, and I’ll have Dale jump in a little bit, too, from his geology background. So to start antimony is one of the listed 50 critical minerals because it is both essential to a large range of products that we rely on in this country. So everything from in the energy industry, we find antimony in wind turbines and solar panels and wiring in our homes and vehicles.
In technology, antimony plays an essential role in products like semiconductors. And then on the national defense side, antimony is used in munitions and primers and other technologies that are required for our security or national security. The problem is we don’t have a domestically mined source in this country. Instead, 90% of the world’s supply of this mineral that we rely on for so many things is controlled by China, Russia, and Tajikistan.
So we find ourselves in a very vulnerable situation when it comes to our ability to access antimony. And then we also have these emerging needs for antimony as well. So not too long ago, we entered into a relationship with a US company called Amri, and they’ve developed a liquid metal battery. It’s a storage energy storage battery that requires two things.
It requires antimony and it requires calcium. And we would be proud to be able to provide antimony from the Stibnite Gold Project to help fuel this battery and really make it a fully domestic supply chain, lowering the kind of carbon footprint and helping to improve the access to ethically sourced metals for this emerging technology as well.
So antimony I like to say, is an unsung hero. Not very many people know about it, but we do rely on it for almost everything in our daily lives. At one point or another in our lives every day. We use antimony. Dale, do you want to jump in on any of the components around its elements or what makes antimony so unique at the Stibnite Gold Project?
Dale Kerner: Sure. Yeah. So Mckinsey mentioned that this would be our only domestic mine source of antimony, and we have mined antimony here in the past. And antimony has been mined elsewhere in the U.S. in the past. But it’s one thing to have it and it’s another thing to mine it and produce it and to be able to refine it.
So we also have limited capacity in the U.S. right now to refine antimony from the way that it occurs in nature. So let’s talk a little bit about that. You know, we’ve got a pretty unique deposit in that we do have a significant resource of antimony and antimony is a metallic element. It’s classified as a semi metal because of its specific properties, but in its elemental form it is a very shiny metallic looking substance, but it also very commonly occurs as a mineral combined with other elements, whether it’s oxygen or sulfur or what have you to form a variety of minerals.
There’s a lot of mineral forms of antimony and a lot of them are very useful because they have these unique properties imparted to them by antimony. And because antimony is found so commonly in these other minerals, that speaks to it.
It’s actual the root of its name, which is based on two Greek words anti which is opposed or opposite, and monos which is alone. So antimony does not like to be alone. It likes to combine with other elements to form a lot of different minerals, many of which are useful. And, you know, I have to admit, before I joined, even though I’m a geologist, before I joined Midas Gold at the time and now Perpetua Resources, I was that was pretty ignorant of antimony myself.
But being involved with this project. I’ve learned a lot about just how important it is. I’m a big fan of every year the U.S.G.S. puts out the commodity summary about, you know, the various minerals and materials that we use in our country every year. And they describe where these are, where these are coming from, whether we’re an exporter or importer of these materials.
Antimony is one of those materials that we’re very much dependent on imports for. And we use about 60 million pounds of it a year. And that amount is going up, not going down because antimony is so useful and occurs in so many products, some of which Mckinsey mentioned. We do use a lot of it and there’s really no sign that we start using less of it any time soon.
She mentioned its fire retardant properties and that’s extremely important. You can incorporate antimony into a large number of materials to inhibit or to increase their fire retardant. And if you think about how important that could be for something like children’s clothing, mattresses, furniture, certainly building materials and paint, it’s important to have some level of fire retardant for those.
And then if you think about the plastic surrounding wires, you know, a lot of structural fires begin with shorts and wiring. So having some level of fire retardant around wiring is extremely important as well. So a lot of applications for fire retardancy. And in fact, that’s the largest application of antimony bearing products that we’re using today.
I think it’s a little around 40% of the antimony bearing products.
Kelly Rogers: How much antimony is at the site there in Idaho. Do you have a sense of how much there is?
Dale Kerner: Well that’s a really good question and you know there’s a fairly large deposit there in the ground. And again, being in the ground and being available to be mined economically are a couple of different things. I believe we’ve got over 200 million pounds of antimony that we’ve identified in the ground. You know, the overall ore body has a lot of antimony in it.
I believe that our latest mine plan proposes to mine, Mckinsey correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think it’s a little over 110 million pounds.
Mckinsey Lyon: I think that’s what we anticipate for recovery at this point. Yes. 148-million-pound resource.
Dale Kerner: Yeah. And you know that the reason that the number is lower than the actual number of what’s in the ground is because you have to get this out of the ground economically and those economics can change. So, you know, if we’ve got a resource in the ground of X-million pounds, the amount that can be mined economically can change over time if the price of antimony were to increase by a certain percentage.
And in fact, the price of antimony is going up. I think it’s around $6.50 or $6.70 and change right now, whereas a few years ago was a couple of dollars less than that. So I mean, not a you know, not a huge cost for a pound of antimony, but if that increases dramatically, that could change the economics of our project.
But there’s also a lot of other factors involved that I won’t speak to here. But they do involve of course, permitting and the impacts of our site, etc. and so on.
Mckinsey Lyon: Right. But Dale I think it’s interesting to note from what we can see our resource of antimony is one of the largest economic resources in the world, not owned by the Chinese or their interests. Making it a fairly significant resource for our nation. This is really an opportunity for us to shore up some of the vulnerabilities that we have at the moment with the resource.
Tiffany Long: Yeah, absolutely. You guys mentioned earlier that antimony is used in making batteries. What is the difference between batteries made with antimony versus other more conventional batteries?
Mckinsey Lyon: That’s a really good question. So battery storage and opportunities for transitioning our economy to lower carbon forms of energy requires battery storage. And so in order to bring these new forms of energy online the President and Congress and many others across this country are really focused at the moment at this missing piece of the battery technology. Most of the battery technology that we hear about, it’s been around for quite a while now, are the lithium ion batteries.
And those are very important. And they absolutely play a role in the overall transition of our energy economy. But I think it’s really important as well, when we have a discussion around battery storage, that we also recognize that in order to address this decarbonization of our grids, we need all technologies, both because they will play different roles in different contexts or when there are different needs, because technology is changing a lot.
And there are also different demands on the mineral resources to create these technologies. So a diversified approach is really important. And the battery that we’re talking about for our antimony is a battery that is being developed by a company called Ambri based out of Massachusetts. And they’ve developed what is called a liquid metal battery and it’s unique for a number of reasons.
First, it only relies on a combination of calcium and antimony, and it’s fairly low in its mineral need intensity. And so they don’t compete with a lot of the other types of battery technologies for the minerals to be able to create and commercialize the battery. They are also designed to be fully recyclable. And we look out at kind of our need to manage resources, particularly under a climate change environment.
That’s really important. These are batteries that are scalable up to about two gigawatt hours and are already about 30 to 50% lower cost than the lithium ion comparables in the 2021 market. Another thing that’s really distinctive about this technology is that it doesn’t have the same risk of thermal loss or combustion as some of the lithium ion systems. And we get a battery that’s designed by and built by a U.S. company and that can be manufactured right here at home.
So when we talk about bringing this technology onto the grid, I think there’s a strong path for commercialization. About a year ago, we signed an agreement with Ambri to provide a portion of our antimony in order for them to develop their batteries. And based on that agreement, we would be able to produce daily or to store the batteries that we would help produce would store about 13 gigawatt hours on a daily cycle for the 20-year lifespan of these batteries.
And to put that into context. That’s enough to power with solar a million American homes for 20 years. Just from the base level of antimony that we can provide into this battery system. Which is very exciting for us to really see our vision for this site. And to bring solutions that we can also help be a part of the solutions needed for climate change.
Tiffany Long: Yeah, it sounds like lower cost, longer life, safer, and made in the USA. It’s like all bonuses
Mckinsey Lyon: Good things, right? All good things.
Tiffany Long: Yeah. That’s fantastic.
Dale Kerner: Yeah. And it would be great if the antimony were mined in the USA too. That would complete the trifecta.
Mckinsey Lyon: That’s exactly right. Whole supply chain right here. Which is actually one of the reasons, when Ambri has spoken publicly about their desire to enter into a partnership with an American company, that was part of it. You know, having a responsibly sourced supply of antimony plays into their consumer demand for the people who want to buy their batteries as well.
Tiffany Long: Do we know if this the only site in the states that has antimony or are there other possible sites for the future?
Mckinsey Lyon: So, Dale go ahead.
Dale Kerner: There are other deposits of antimony in the United States. I mean, I don’t know them specifically. I believe they’re in Montana and in Nevada and Alaska, but I don’t think we’ve got a very good handle on just how much antimony is potentially in reserve in domestic deposits. Again, going back to the U.S.G.S. commodity summary, I believe that the only reserves of potentially accessible antimony indicated are from the Stibnite project.
So, not only will it be the only domestic mine source, but, you know, other significant reserves of antimony have yet to be identified. But I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of where they might occur. And it would just be a matter of, you know, kind of getting that impetus moving forward to identify these deposits and characterize them and potentially get them into the permitting process.
But, yeah, there are other deposits out there, but it’s not, you know, an overly common mineral to have occurring in your in your deposit.
Mckinsey Lyon: And the other aspect too Dale is that it’s not always feasible to then mine it. Mining and project start is a very expensive process. And most often with mining, unless you have gold or an economic led deposit with it, it is not feasible then to produce the antimony by itself. And so in our case, the economics of this project are very much built on the gold resource we have at hand.
And yet it’s that gold and the economics of our gold that allows it to be feasible to provide money to restore the site.
Dale Kerner: That’s a really good point, Mckinsey. Because you think about the antimony at six or even $7 a pound and you know, a 100 million pounds of that, so $700 million. I mean, that barely puts a dent in the costs that it takes to develop a mine and permit a mine, let alone conduct the reclamation that would be needed to appropriately reclaim and restore a mine, particularly one where you’ve got existing disturbances and environmental issues already.
So yes, it’s very important to the economics of the project that it co-occurs with gold and silver.
Kelly Rogers: Now, I understand that the White House recently released a supply chain report that talked about antimony. Can you share what was in that report about it?
Mckinsey Lyon: Yeah, absolutely. So this administration has been paying a lot of attention to supply chain matters both for the critical goods that we all recognize might not be as easy for us to have on the grocery store shelves as they were a couple of years ago. But critical minerals in particular, as the building blocks for all of these things that we want and we need.
You know, I like to say that critical minerals are the first link in the supply chain. And when we don’t have access or control over the production of those minerals, our supply chains are neither secure nor are they necessarily responsible. And so it’s been great to see this administration paying attention and now starting to take action. So a year ago, the president signed an executive order for the agencies within the federal government to review our supply chain vulnerabilities and potential solutions.
And as a part of that executive order, a report came out just a few months ago or a few weeks ago that reported back on what the agencies had learned. And antimony specifically was called out as a shortfall mineral by the Department of Defense. So a mineral that we need. And yet we don’t know where or how we’re going to meet that need.
You know, our country does have a stockpile of antimony but there is not certainty that that stockpile will be able to be refreshed after the Department of Defense takes what it needs from it. So there’s growing awareness and interest in it, particularly now with the geopolitical world, more unsettled in the last month or so.
And Russia in particular, and what that might mean for where things move politically and the geopolitical realm and how that impacts our ability to access minerals. We’re already seeing that nickel, for example, and uranium and potentially even things like neon being impacted by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and trying to figure out where China is going to play in that all goes into our antimony resources.
And what we have access to here.
Kelly Rogers: With it being classified as what you called a short fall mineral. Does that do anything or give it like special priority or is it just a name?
Mckinsey Lyon: What they call it? The report didn’t go that far. So at this point, it’s just what they call it. Okay. So, right. We saw the President take another action, which was to initiate the Defense Production Act, which is an act that really came about around the Korean War, when as a nation we realized we didn’t have the things that we needed for our for our national security.
So last week or two weeks ago, the President activated the Defense Production Act to authorize the Department of Defense to go and identify projects where there was a need based on connection to storage batteries. So we’re seeing it really start on the clean energy side how clean energy policy requires access to these critical materials and where the Department of Defense, through the Defense Production Act, can utilize some of the resources of that act to then encourage and help promote access and development of critical mineral projects here in this country.
So that will include things like additional coordination between agencies. It includes help on access to resources or even some funding possibilities down the road. If the Department of Defense identifies a roadblock, then they can they can come in and help with that process. So it’s encouraging to finally see real action being taken. You don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like yet, but now there is a there’s at least a path being carved.
Dale Kerner: Can I add some to that? Yeah. Mckinsey, you asked earlier about where these where these antimony deposits might occur within the United States. Now, another part of this whole process of getting this is supply chain reinvigorated in this country for critical minerals specifically. You know, there’s a critical minerals mapping initiative.
Just to get a little plug in here for the geologists, before we can even design these mines or figure out how we’re going to get stuff out of the ground or where it’s going to go to be refined, we have to identify where these deposits are. And there are robust geologic mapping programs in all states to try to refresh all of the geologic mapping data that occur in those states and bring them into the new digital age, get all these maps digitized, be able to provide them online.
But, you know, as part of those state map programs, the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative helps fund those programs. So we can very simply identify where these resources might occur. So that’s looking at the types of rocks that occur at the surface, the major structural features that occur for faults, etc. We’ve got plenty of those out here in the West but that’s really where it all starts is identifying where those minerals might occur before we can even get them into this extremely long process of developing a mine plan, getting everything permitted, building mines and having refinement capacity in the United States.
It takes a long time. Therefore, the sooner we do it, the better. So it’s good to see these initiatives getting off the ground and recognizing that if we are going to have mineral independence, we’ve got to start putting our money where our mouth is.
Kelly Rogers: Did you say this is a federal initiative, this mapping initiative?
Dale Kerner: It is a federal initiative, and those are federal funding dollars. But each state has its own state map and I say state map because it’s an all CAPS acronym They have boards to develop geologic mapping initiatives within their own states. So in Idaho, I’m on the Idaho geologic mapping advisory committee. And each year, the Idaho Geological Survey puts a grant proposal in to get federal dollars, which are matched by state dollars to fund their geologic mapping project.
So Idaho’s got you know, I think we’ve got four focus areas scattered around the state. And these things are these initiatives focused on public health and safety with regard to geo hazards and potential transportation and transportation corridors. They focus on economic opportunities, certainly, you know, mineral resource development. But the gas plays in southwest Idaho are a recent focus area.
Certainly, Southeast Idaho with the phosphate district. That’s another focus area. These mapping initiatives are aimed at building that base of knowledge of where do these minerals occur before they get into that very long conveyor belt of development that finally ends at us being able to have that mineral independence that appears is going to be increasingly critical as we move forward with the instability in the world.
Tiffany Long: But anyway, sounds like it.
Dale Kerner: Yeah.
Mckinsey Lyon: Dale, I love that point, though, about the timeline. So if I may, for just a moment, we started this process as a company back in 2010 to identify and shore up. Was there a resource and mineral resource left at night? We spent about six years evaluating, doing initial engineering, talking to our communities, and developing that plan.
So we invested six years into that first phase and then we submitted our plan into the permitting process through NEPA in 2016. So we’ve been in the permitting review now for about six years and we anticipate that should everything stay on track, we’ll have a record of decision in 2023 then enter into of three years of construction. That puts production of gold and antimony in 2027, so a 17-year process.
Kelly Rogers: Wow.
Mckinsey Lyon: Identifying where those critical minerals are to getting them into production. So when we talk about timelines around action needed for climate change or needed for supply chains or needed for our Department of Defense and our national security, that’s a very long outlook to be planning for.
Tiffany Long: It really is.
Mckinsey Lyon: Somewhat mind boggling too. We didn’t even talk about how much money it costs.
Tiffany Lyon: Well, speaking of timelines, going back quite a bit we understand there’s a long history around this site and antimony. Can you share how the site became a critical player in World War Two?
Mckinsey Lyon: Absolutely. I am a history major, and so perhaps that’s why I love this portion of our story so much, but also from being a lifelong Idahoan. And so mining first started at Stibnite Idaho, and Stibnite is in central Idaho in the in the mountains of Idaho, very remote. So I’m here in Boise. And so it’s about a four hour drive today to get to Stibnite from where I am.
So mining first started here back in 1899 as a part of the Thunder Mountain Gold Rush with a much larger gold rush happening across the West and very much here in Idaho as well. So mining started for gold and silver and it wasn’t until the eve of World War Two when the US government saw that war could be coming and knew that we needed a supply of both tungsten and antimony because it was the blockade in the Pacific and the Japanese invasion of China that blocked us from having access to the tungsten and antimony that we needed.
So the government set out and found both at Stibnite, Idaho and went on to then commission the mining companies that were there to produce the tungsten and antimony for the war effort. Antimony and tungsten were both critical. As Dale has mentioned, antimony plays a role in our munitions in bullets and other types of materials used for the Department of Defense.
And then tungsten is a metal strength center. So it is what was making the German army so strong with their tanks and munitions as well. So it was critical to have a supply of both tungsten, antimony and literally almost overnight the town of Stibnite grew to about a thousand people and entire families moved to Stibnite to be a part of the war production You could even serve your military duty at Stibnite.
It was that critical to our national goals. And Stibnite went on to produce the majority of both tungsten and antimony used by the United States for World War Two and the Korean War. And in fact, afterwards in the 1950s, the U.S. government went on to recognize the men and women of Stibnite, Idaho, for having shortened World War to by a year and saving a million American lives because of it, because of antimony and tungsten, being that significant to the war effort And so it has this incredible legacy that as an Idaho person I didn’t know about.
And it’s something that we should absolutely be proud of. And on the other hand, there’s this other side of the legacy as well, right? Where a good chunk of the mining that has occurred at this site occurred long before there were environmental regulations on how to mine and how to leave it when you’re done. And even an ethos around mining was different back then.
And so because of it, there are also these environmental legacies left behind. And I love our approach as a company and for our project that we can go back, remine once again produce these things that are critical for our country. And this time close the chapter by truly restoring Stibnite and the environmental conditions that we’re left behind and taking on that legacy ourselves.
To a certain degree, the story is so relevant today because it also shows us that supply chain issues are not new. Dealing with these supply chain issues for generations. And here they are again. And what a wonderful way to help rewrite the history of Stibnite.
Kelly Rogers: This legacy is just amazing. And I’m going to change course a little bit. And I want to talk a little bit about the future. Let’s talk about what the impact of what you guys are doing is going to have on Idaho and that local community right there. What does the future hold for that actual site in that town.
Dale Kerner: To begin with, we have spoken with community members for over a decade now, getting there, getting their take on the project, involving them in the day-to-day operations that we have going on right now out there just to kind of maintain the site. So we really have a good relationship with the with the people that live in in Yellow Pine and other surrounding communities.
And we’re very open and honest with them about what we are proposing. You know, the potential benefits of the project, both to the socioeconomic profile of Valley County and certainly their community right there, but also the overall environmental benefit that are going to result from the project. So I think that transparency has really paid off because we as I said, we really have strong support from the surrounding communities.
And everybody is very interested in supporting our project. You know, when we get public comment periods, we usually have a long line of people waiting to sing the praises of the project. Mckinsey mentioned the construction of the project, it’s going to be a three-year process. It’s going to be a huge effort to build a modern mine out in in that very remote part of Idaho.
It’s going to take three years that’s going to require us to build in part a new road will utilize existing roads to the degree that we can, but it’s going to employ about a thousand people just to build the mine. So of course, some of these people will be coming in from specialty firms elsewhere. But we’ve demonstrated to date and we certainly want to moving forward, hire as many local people as possible.
I’m understanding that may sometimes require specific training for health and safety or for other trades. But we definitely want to do that. And that’s something we’ve really backed up with our actions to date. So that’s going to be a large workforce building the mine. Once the mine is operating, the day-to-day operations which will last for about 15 years, will employ about 500 people that are actually working at the mine in shifts of two weeks on, two weeks off.
You know, 250 people at a time. So that’s a significant workforce. And these will be well-paying jobs that that are going to really change the economics of Valley County. And they’re going to be putting a lot of money in people’s pockets as well as tax revenues in the in the state’s pockets.
So again, we want to we want to hire people that that come from this area, train them as needed to work at the mine. And as they did back in the in the forties and fifties, take pride in developing a very important natural resource that is in their backyard and having a hand in restoring this area that many people have known for decades as, you know, that that that mine pit up at Stibnite.
You know, you drive by and you’ve been seeing it for decades and yeah, there’s some big old bull trout in there. But, you know, we can do better and we can restore that river to its to its former glory, not only as a fishery, but a fishery that is once again passing fish back up into the upper portion of east fork.
So a lot have been socio-economic benefits that that will come out of this project. I think we’ve communicated those very effectively to people and backed up that talk with things we’ve been doing to date. And we want those people working at our mine.
Mckinsey Lyon: You know, that’s right, Dale. And I think, you know, I appreciate the question of, “what does the future hold for Stibnite?” because what we know right now that without this definite gold project Stibnite, Idaho stays the same. Which means ten and a half million tons of legacy waste and tailings will continue to sit there unlined, degrading ground and surface water.
We know that just like Dale mentioned, indigenous fish will be blocked from what is miles of original habitat. They haven’t been able to access directly through their own volition. And we’ll just have overall degraded conditions and a river that’s still flowing into an abandoned mining pit. That’s what is there today. And that’s what will stay unless it’s a project like the Stibnite Gold Project that provides private investment along with massive amounts of government approvals and then continued oversight during the operations.
But right in the very beginning of operations, our plan is to address those legacies. As soon as the construction period starts, we are starting to address the environmental legacies that have been left behind at Stibnite and then not waiting until the end of the project to do reclamation and restoration. So we’ve designed it so that our reclamation and restoration of our own disturbance is concurrent with mining.
We’re not waiting until the end of the project to see those benefits come to fruition, whether it is from improved water quality or fish access. All of those things start early on throughout the project. So like Dale mentioned, in addition to the social partnerships and the economic benefits that can be shared with the local community, we also very immediately see benefits brought at Stibnite because of the mine.
Tiffany Long: I love that you are creating a healthier space. So what is it like working with the community of Yellow Pine?
Mckinsey Lyon: It’s a great question. So to give everyone a little bit of context, the community of Yellow Pine, the village of Yellow Pine, has I think about 20 full time residents. It’s fairly remote and it’s a community that was built and grew up alongside many of the historical mining operations that have occurred at Stibnite. So you have many people who live there today who had grandmothers and grandfathers and mothers and fathers or even themselves at one point or the other have seen a different generation of mining. Stibnite to the town of Yellow Pine is about 14 miles.
But you know, down a long dirt road to the Stibnite mine site and one of the things that I think we would say that we have both appreciated and learned a lot from in the last ten years is that it is a very frank and earnest community there. They tell you exactly what they think without any sugarcoating, but because of that it’s really forced us to act very very early on to listen. What do they need, what do they want, what are they concerned about?
And then figure out a way to work with the community to address those needs and those concerns. There are two really great examples of this. The first and the very first years of us putting our thoughts together about what a plan would look like to operate at Stibnite. The current road to get to Stibnite means that you travel along one of two very sensitive fisheries or rivers in Idaho either the South Fork or Johnson Creek, and you parallel those for miles and then you take the Stibnite Road from Yellow Pine to Stibnite that is steep and narrow and prone to avalanche and slide.
And we saw this and we’re like, well, it sure would be great if we had a different option here and we weren’t talking to the people of Yellow Pine. And they’re like, well, there totally is another option. There are these old logging roads and old mining roads that would take you into Stibnite from a different direction, and you’d be able to avoid recreational traffic.
You’d be able to avoid paralleling those sensitive fisheries, and you’d get much higher up into the drainage where you’re really reducing the risk to travel from avalanche, etc. And it actually has become our preferred solution to get to site. And we only figured that out because we started this dialog early and we were open to those ideas.
And so we’ve absolutely benefited. Another example – Once our plan finally came out we initially had it that the mine site was closed, and unintentionally then had blocked some recreational traffic that is typical of going through Yellow Pine to access the backcountry. We didn’t realize it. And so we did about a nine month process of working with the community to identify some solutions and both articulate our interests and our needs for a safe environment, for being able to control the environment and from a cost and feasibility standpoint.
And they came at it from an economic standpoint and we were able to find some middle ground and to find a solution forward. So it’s been great. It’s also, you know, any time you’re 4 hours from a major city, there are logistical, you know, considerations of working out in the Idaho backcountry, like you are not going to get delivery the next day.
That extra planning and support. That we get from a town, the folks in the town of Yellow Pine as well.
Tiffany Long: So probably no drive thrus for lunch.
Mckinsey Lyon: Yeah, no drive thrus. There are two bars and restaurants and a little grocery store that just finally reopened so there’s more and more.
Tiffany Long: It sounds really charming and beautiful.
Kelly Rogers: Well, I’m really excited about what your team is doing, the patience you guys have over this 17 years you’ve said so far.
Mckinsey Lyon: It’ll be a total of 17. 17 years. Yeah. Right here.
Kelly Rogers: And it’s exciting the impact that you’re having both on resources for the for the U.S. but also for this community that it’s going to really benefit. So I appreciate you guys sharing your story today.
Tiffany Long: Yeah. This has been very interesting.
Mckinsey Lyon: We certainly appreciate the opportunity. As you can probably tell from Dale and myself, we have no shortage of enthusiasm for talking about this project with folks. So we really appreciate it.
Kelly Rogers: A huge thank you to Mckinsey and Dale for taking the time to speak with us today about this super exciting project. It’s obvious that beyond being a job site, this project and the local community are personally important to Perpetua Resources and the products made using antimony are useful and very important to the future.
Tiffany Long: I know this story makes me want to take a trip to Northern Idaho for a visit. I can just picture the natural beauty, and I learned so much from this conversation. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today.
Kelly Rogers: We know that many of our listeners out there have their own engineering legend stories. We’d love to hear from you. Please send us your feedback, stories and ideas for future episodes. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This podcast was brought to you by Brown and Caldwell. It’s our purpose and passion to safeguard water, maintain infrastructure, and restore habitats to keep our communities thriving until next time.