Former Idaho Gov. Butch Otter joins cobalt mining company board

Former Gov. Butch Otter
Former Gov. Butch Otter Lewiston Tribune file

A Canadian mining company has tapped former Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to serve on its board as it expands its operations into Idaho.

“The former governor brings extensive political experience and a strong business acumen, both of which will serve our company and shareholders well,” said Paul Matysek, chairman of First Cobalt’s board of directors, in a news release. “This key addition to the board of First Cobalt will certainly help advance our interests in becoming a leading producer in the United States.”

The Toronto-based company joins the cobalt mining rush with its Iron Creek cobalt project southwest of Salmon. The area, known as the Idaho cobalt belt, is one of the most cobalt-rich areas in North America.

Cobalt is a key component of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and electronic devices.

“Idaho has a long and rich mining history, and the Idaho Cobalt Belt is strategically important to America as we seek to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of cobalt and other critical minerals,” said Otter in the news release. “Our country needs to become more self-reliant for minerals that are of strategic importance to our military and industry. First Cobalt has demonstrated a commitment to move swiftly and responsibly to develop a domestic supply of cobalt, and I am keen to help with these efforts.”

Otter retired in January after serving three terms as the Gem State’s governor.

Butch Otter awarded former Gov. Phil Batt the 2019 Idaho Medal of Achievement in Boise as his final official act as governor. The Idaho Medal of Achievement is the highest civilian honor the state offers.

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.