Mine approved - with restrictions

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The Kootenai County commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday morning to approve Idaho Forest Group's request to operate a surface mine at its Chilco Mill site.

"It allows the mill to be a productive contributor to our economy, and allows them to prosper and keep the jobs and everything going," said Commissioner Todd Tondee, after the officials granted the conditional use permit for the mine operation.

Commissioner Dan Green said he supported the use of the mine for on-site work at the Chilco mill, where rock is used to stabilize the log yard.

"I think it's an integral part of their operation," Green said.

Several neighbors of the mill had objected to the request, out of concern for noise and impacts on water quality.

To appease those worries, the commissioners restricted hours of operation for the mine, which will be set officially in upcoming weeks for the signing of the permit.

IFG spokesman Ryan Fobes said the company is pleased by the elected officials' decision.

"It allows us to utilize an on-site source, and not rely on trucking materials in," Fobes said.

The company is "disappointed" about the restriction on hours, he noted, especially as there are similar uses in the area.

"There are significant costs to bringing a crusher in," he said, noting that a surface mine and lumber mill are located nearby. "I don't understand that condition."

The mine has existed at the site about 15 miles north of Coeur d'Alene since the 1980s. IFG pursued a permit to operate the mine after discovering last year that the previous permit had expired.

Judy Brooks, a neighbor who had opposed the project, said she felt more at ease because of the operation restriction.

"If they're limited on their hours, maybe that'll be OK," Brooks said.

She is still worried about impacts the mine might have on water quality, she said, noting that a couple of neighbors still depend on wells.

She'll just keep a sharp eye out, she said.

"I'm just going to keep track myself of this stuff, so I can have some kind of proof of what's going on," Brooks said.

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