18 cattle die near Idaho mine; selenium suspected

18 cattle die near Idaho mine; selenium suspected

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- At least 18 cattle are suspected to have died of selenium poisoning near a southeastern Idaho phosphate mine.

These are the latest livestock deaths in this rich phosphate region, where pollution from a century of mining has killed horses and hundreds of sheep since the 1990s.

Cattle had been believed less susceptible to selenium poisoning.

These died around Aug. 5 near the mothballed Lanes Creek Mine, where fertilizer-maker J.R. Simplot Co. owns the mineral rights but says it's never mined the site.

Their deaths come just as J.R. Simplot and the Monsanto Co., which makes Roundup herbicide, are seeking to dig new mines a few miles away.

Livers from the dead cattle analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed high levels of selenium, which is unearthed with phosphate ore and contaminates groundwater and plants near mines if it's not properly contained.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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