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BONNERS FERRY - An Australian company disputes that it is planning to mine rare earth elements and thorium in northern Idaho.

Although those materials are abundant at Hall Mountain, MMG Limited insists its exploration program is entirely focused on zinc.

Sally Cox is general manager of stakeholder relations at MMG.

Cox says in a statement that MMG's exploration is preliminary and decisions about further exploration will be made after the current exploration program.

The U.S. Forest Service recently granted MMG permission to conduct the exploration.

If MMG conducts further exploration or chooses to develop the mine, a more stringent analysis would be needed.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that opponents of the mine's possible development are convinced the search for zinc is cover for assessing rare earth element deposits.

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