The Idaho phosphate mine under Monsanto that crafted an arsenal of the agrichemical weapon, Roundup®, is renewing its permit soon and will likely become much less regulated by the federal government, so that Monsanto may continue forward as an arms dealer in the War on Bees. The Blackfoot Bridge Mine, located in Idaho’s Caribou County, is overseen by the Idaho Miners Association (IMA). First Vice-President of the IMA, Randy Vranes, conducted a Q & A session about the mining and minerals industry earlier this year outlining Monsanto’s Idaho phosphate extraction history.
Randy Vranes’ mining career began when he joined Monsanto in 1985 where he played a large role in the Blackfoot Bridge Mine’s installation in 2011. In his two decades of training at Monsanto as an engineer, Vranes held many leadership positions such as development manager, production supervisor, and senior mining engineer. He now holds the title, Monsanto business unit leader, in the Mineral Activities Department.
In his interview, Vranes reminisces about how Monsanto developed its facility in Caribou County. He mentions the well-known Monsanto chemist, John Franz, who coined the term glyphosate in 1970 to refer to the glycoside phosphate compound in Roundup®. He further comments about the Blackfoot Bridge Mine’s significance, “Since glyphosate-based herbicides make up, by volume, 90 percent of the world’s herbicide sales, you can see why being the western hemisphere’s only source of elemental phosphorus makes these Idaho mines of great economic importance.” Monsanto’s domination of the agriculture industry depends on the corporation’s ability to own all of Idaho’s phosphate deposits. Monsanto needs a steady supply of glyphosate compounds which are injected into Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® seeds.
Vranes fears that mineral resources in Florida and South Carolina, “are being depleted at a rapid rate” which causes him anxiety since the phosphate in Idaho comprises only 12 to 15 percent of America’s phosphate resources. Monsanto is becoming the leading agrichemical arms dealer and is consolidating the permitting process to establish another Idaho phosphate mine so that they may craft an under-detected arsenal of Roundup Ready® weapons for the War on Bees. Speeding up the permitting would relieve Vrances’ worries on whether Monsanto will continue to have their pick of the country’s remaining finite phosphate deposits. Despite global awareness about the rapidly declining pollinating insect population, like the rusty patched bumble bee, Monsanto feels pressured to monopolize America’s phosphate resources, rather than slowing down its production of the phosphate based agrichemicals that are toxic to these animals.
Controversy surrounds the connection between glyphosate compounds and the endangerment of bee populations because of Colony Collapse Disorder. Despite studies that make the connection, Monsanto has not delayed their mine reclamation project that includes a proposed 1,200 acre phosphate mine in Caldwell Canyon that covers private and public land. Randy Vranes’ appointment as the First Vice-President of the IMA ensures that Monsanto will face fewer obstacles at lessening federal restrictions on the permitting scheduled to proceed throughout the year.
Even though the mine reclamation plan’s official submission will not occur until June 2015, Monsanto is not waiting for House Bill 473’s enactment which would diminish the regulative power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The standard procedure for permitting typically involves a collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a federal regulator assigned by the EPA. Monsanto has already hired their own consultant to “provide thorough geologic, hydrologic and environmental analysis, specifying solutions to challenges such as impacts to sage grouse habitat and potential selenium contamination.”
Becoming a fully under regulated agrichemicals arms dealer and crafting an arsenal of weapons for the War on Bees may not be spelled out in the About Us section on Monsanto’s Idaho phosphate mine website, but it does not take much to read between the lines. In the upcoming months, Monsanto will conduct its own scientific research to accommodate their unchecked race to the biotech finish line where the last of America’s phosphate awaits as the first-place trophy.
By Reivin Johnson