Hecla Mining’s proposed Rock Creek Mine near the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness received partial approval from the US Forest Service — enough to build an adit and do some environmental work. By and large, this is a victory for opposition environmental groups . . .
Opponents and proponents of a proposed copper and silver mine in Sanders County are both celebrating after the U.S. Forest Service announced it would issue only a partial approval for the project in an upcoming Record of Decision.
Conservation groups say that the decision to withhold a full development permit for the Rock Creek Mine proves that a massive industrial project should not be developed beneath a wilderness area for fear that it will dewater the land above. But officials with Hecla Mining Company, the Coeur d’Alene-based mining company heading up the project, said that a phased approval has always been part of the plan.
In a letter dated Oct. 31, Deputy Regional Forester David E. Schmid announced that the final Record of Decision would only approve phase 1 of the Rock Creek Project, allowing the construction of a mine adit and an environmental evaluation of the site, which is located near Noxon.
It’s kind of a long shot, but opponents of mining along the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness are employing “bad actor” law in an attempt to block issuance of mining permits to the Hecla Mining Company . . .
Opponents of Hecla Mining Co’s projects near the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness claim its chief executive officer can’t seek new permits until he accounts for millions of dollars in reclamation work incurred by his previous mining company.
In a letter released Monday, the coalition of environmental groups asked the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to suspend all permitting efforts requested by Hecla CEO Phillips Baker. Baker was formerly chief financial officer of Pegasus Gold Inc., whose bankruptcy in 1998 left the state responsible for at least $33 million in acid mine contamination at the Zortman and Landusky mines between the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and Malta.
The Pegasus bankruptcy was a major factor in the Legislature updating the Metal Mine Reclamation Act in 2001, with its “bad actor” provision prohibiting officials of uncompleted reclamation efforts from starting new projects.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service had a bad day in court when federal judge Donald Malloy overturned their approvals for construction of the Montanore mine at the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness . . .
In two decisions issued at the end of May, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Forest Management Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act when they approved a massive mining operation beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
Hecla Mining Company is looking to build the Montanore copper and silver mine on the edge of the wilderness, about 18 miles south of Libby. The mine’s presence would require about 13 miles of paved or expanded roads, 14 miles of electric transmission line, wastewater treatment and holding, and tailings and seepage storage. If constructed, it would process tens of thousands of tons of ore every day.
The mine’s surface operations would be in known grizzly bear and bull trout habitat, and its underground activity would extend beneath the wilderness area, potentially draining millions of gallons of water from the local creeks.
An environmental coalition is challenging the DNRC water permit for the Rock Creek Mine, one of two proposed mines near the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness . . .
A coalition of environmental groups is challenging the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s proposed decision to issue a water permit to the company hoping to build a massive copper and silver mine near Noxon.
The coalition, including the Clark Fork Coalition, Rock Creek Alliance, Earthworks and the Montana Environmental Information Center, has alleged that the Hecla Mining Company’s Rock Creek Mine would dewater streams within the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. The nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice represents the groups.
The formal objection was filed with the DNRC on Sept. 6.
Coeur d’Alene-based Hecla Mining Co. officials said they expected the environmental review to reach the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday, with publication expected in the Federal Register on Friday. That starts a 45-day comment period.
Hecla took over Revett Mining Co. in June, paying Revett shareholders $20 million in Hecla stock in the deal. That spelled the closure of Revett’s Troy Mine, but gave greater impetus on opening the larger Rock Creek Mine project five miles northeast of Noxon, in Sanders County. That mine holds a purported 229 million ounces of silver and 2 billion pounds of copper.