BONNERS FERRY, Idaho -

The U.S. Forest Service has given an Australia-based mining company permission to conduct exploratory drilling at eight locations at Hall Mountain in northern Idaho to search for rare earth elements.

The agency tells the Bonner County Daily Bee in a story on Friday that MMG Limited plans to start drilling in July.

Officials say the company hopes to develop a three-dimensional model of subsurface mineral deposits.

Additional steps would be needed if the company decides it wants to develop a mine.

U.S. Geological Survey officials say Hall Mountain contains tons of thorium as well as veins of rare earth elements.

Some area residents oppose the mine due to pollution concerns.

The Idaho Conservation League tried to stop the exploratory drilling out of concern it would displace threatened grizzly bears.