Issues & Insights

Eight Decades Later, America Needs Idaho’s Help — Again

Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0

Is mining patriotic? Has mining ever been regarded as military service? Yes to both. One of the greatest examples is during World War II involving the Bradley Mining Company at Stibnite, Idaho. There, critical minerals needed for the war were mined day and night by 1500 men and women. They mined and milled more tungsten and antimony than all other mines in the U.S. at that time. Tungsten was needed for armor-piercing shells and tank armor, and antimony for the manufacture of bullets and as a flame retardant for wooden decks on aircraft carriers.

As World War II raged, General Dwight Eisenhower, on May 15, 1943, sent a surprise telegram to the men and women of Bradley Mining Company, thanking them for their service to our defense. In his powerfully-worded message, General Eisenhower said:

“Our fighting men standing shoulder to shoulder with our gallant allies, the British and the French, have driven the enemy out of North Africa. In this victory the munitions made by American industry, labor and management played a very important role. There is glory for us all in the achievement.”    

Afterward, the War Department’s Munitions Board declared the discovery of tungsten at Stibnite had shortened the war by at least one year and saved the lives of a million American soldiers. 

Today, the U.S. has largely abandoned exploration and mining for most critical minerals even while national demand continues to rise. However, our fighting men and women rely very heavily on quality, durable, miniature, and mobile products made from specific critical minerals and metals. 

Almost eight decades after General Eisenhower’s explicit acknowledgment of the military value of critical minerals and metals, America again needs Idaho’s can-do spirit to help bail the U.S. out of its reckless import over-reliance on China, Russia, and other untrustworthy sources. 

Idaho’s tradition of contributing to economic and national security with its vast resource wealth—rich deposits of antimony, gold, silver, phosphate, tungsten and molybdenum—is a source of pride. Unlike many politicians in D.C., Idahoans don’t shun America’s mineral wealth—rather they embrace careful and responsible mining as a normal-but-vital part of our economy and national defense.

Consider antimony. While antimony sometimes occurs in native form, it is more common as the sulfide mineral stibnite, namesake of the Idaho mine. It’s essential in the energy, defense, and technology sectors, and is used in a variety of everyday applications including semiconductors, bearing alloys, and batteries. However, perhaps one of the most beneficial uses of antimony is as a flame retardant, for which there is no effective substitute.  

Antimony is predominantly mined, smelted and refined in China, with large parts of the supply chain controlled by Russia and Bolivia. China accounts for about 80% of annual antimony production, and over 60% of the global antimony reserves. Twenty years ago, the U.S. stockpiled antimony, however, those supplies ran out in 2003. This “empty cupboard” situation leaves the U.S. vulnerable to supply shock as the Nation has zero domestic mining production for at least the past five years. As the U.S. is once again looking to acquire imported antimony to stockpile, little wonder that America would benefit greatly from an uninterruptable domestic source of antimony.

That is where Midas Gold Idaho comes in. The company’s Stibnite Mine already has the in-place resources and reserves; Midas is providing the capital, know-how, environmental planning, and commitment to get the job done right.

The company has already invested millions of dollars in Valley County in order to turn fallow or brown field mine property into a thriving, productive, and environmentally healthy operation. Today, Midas is a prime example of how to reinvigorate supply chain miners, , manufacturers, and distributors of high-end products used by civilian and military consumers. But before getting deeply involved —the corporate decision was made to clean up the environment at Stibnite before and during mining.  

Stibnite’s contribution to the American success story of tapping into our mineral endowment will benefit the region with new high-paying careers and increased tax revenues to fund Idaho’s pressing priorities. To achieve our mineral independence from foreign mineral import dumping, the nation must become domestically self-reliant for critical minerals—as it once was not that long ago, and as it now is with oil and natural gas. 

As General Eisenhower demonstrated decades ago, it is again time to celebrate Stibnite’s legacy by providing 21st century leadership using modern mining and restoration techniques—to correct environmental abuses by others in the previous century. This is possible because today’s high-tech mining and environmental stewardship are totally compatible and necessary to safely and efficiently produce critical minerals. The alternative—leaving critical minerals that we have in abundance in the ground because of unfounded fears—is opting for a false choice. 

For Midas Gold and the people of Idaho, it is time to mine minerals, improve their lands, and benefit the economy and our military, simultaneously. Therefore, approving the Stibnite mine is the right decision in the right place at the right time.

Dr. Ned Mamula, a geologist formerly with the U.S. Geological Survey, is the author of the widely acclaimed book titled: Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence. 

Brigadier General (Ret) John Adams served more than 30 years on active duty in the U.S. Army, retiring in 2007. He is the President of Guardian Six LLC, a defense and national security consulting firm, and the lead author of Remaking American Security, a report on U.S. defense industrial base vulnerabilities.

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Issues & Insights is run by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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