Idaho Forest Group is requesting to reactivate and operate a restricted surface mine at its Chilco Mill site, compounding neighbors' concerns of pollution and noise as the company plans to expand operations there.
The company is just complying with Kootenai County regulations, said Ryan Fobes, IFG director of land improvement.
"We're just doing what we're asked from the county, and trying to be good neighbors at the same time," Fobes said on Monday.
The county examiner will hold a hearing today at 6 p.m. over IFG's request for a conditional use permit to operate the mine.
The Chilco site about 15 miles north of Coeur d'Alene has included an operating surface mine since the mid to late '80s, according to the company's project narrative.
A permit was issued in '88, unknown to Riley Creek when it acquired the site in 2003. Nor was it made apparent when the company merged with Bennett Forest Industries in 2008, to form the current owner, IFG.
Only when someone recently complained about the mine operation, Fobes said, did the county inform IFG that the old permit had existed and expired. A new one was needed.
"As soon as we knew it was out of compliance, we did what we needed to do with the county," Fobes said.
Rock from the mine has always been used on site, he said, to stabilize the log yard.
The mine is used about 6 months of the year, he added, when filler rock material is needed.
"We are certainly saving by using an on-site source, versus paying to use someone else's source and having trucks travel to and from, burdening all the public roads," he said.
The mine is also an important part of IFG's plans to expand the 251.6-acre mill onto an adjacent 46 acres, he added.
The commissioners held a hearing over a proposed permit to expand last week. The hearing is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today.
"(The mine) could be a source of generating rock for some improvements we want to do. It's integral to keeping costs down," Fobes said.
The mining site covers roughly 8 acres.
IFG has proposed restricting mining operations from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Blasting hours would be limited from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. There would be no operations on Sundays or holidays.
The site is naturally screened by "small hills and vegetation," according to the project narrative.
"The neighbors and public road vistas are not planned to be impacted by this CUP," the document reads.
Still, several neighbors of the site have submitted letters of concern to the county.
Judy Brooks, who lives across the street from the mill site and has been at the location since before the mill was built, fears the mine could affect the local water supply.
"It's the noise level, too. That's an important issue," Brooks said on Monday, adding that she and her other several neighbors hear machines on a daily basis. "I understand that they employ a lot of people, I understand it's a big business, but I don't think they have any sensitivity for the neighbors."
Chilco Road resident Harold Marples wrote to the county that "the amount of noise that comes from the mill is very offensive."
Marples expects the use of the mine to exacerbate that, he wrote.
"We can only assume the noise level will continue to increase," Marples stated.
Tonight's examiner hearing will be held in room 1 of the county administration building.
The continued commissioners' hearing about IFG's proposed expansion will be in the commissioners' chambers in the administration building this morning.
Fobes pointed out that another active surface mine is also operating nearby in the area.
"We're not proposing to do anything significantly different," Fobes said. "We're just trying to bring something into compliance we didn't know was out."