Judge blocks Montana mine over environmental concerns
A federal judge in Montana has blocked the development of the Montanore Mine in the Cabinet Mountains, citing the Endangered Species Act and other federal environmental laws.
The mine was being planned by a subsidiary of Hecla Mining Co. and would have employed 350 people during peak production.
Environmental activists argued that the development of the mine would endanger the grizzly bear population as well as bull trout in the area, Reuters reported.
With the ruling, U.S. District Judge Donald Malloy effectively canceled the U.S. Forest Service permit issued for the proposed copper and silver mine that was issued last year.
The decision invalidates the current permit but does not prevent the company from reapplying for a new permit. Hecla is still deciding on its next steps and has not ruled out either appealing the judge’s ruling or applying for a new permit, said Luke Russell, a Hecla spokesman, who called the decision disappointing.
Russell said company officials would seek a meeting with the federal agencies involved in the case in hopes of finding a way to move forward with the project.
Groups including Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice had sued to block the mine. They argued that its facilities would be located next to critical habitat for grizzly bears and bull trout, both endangered species, and that the mine would also drain millions of gallons from streams in the wilderness area.
The mine would have employed about 350 people during peak production, according to estimates cited in local news media, and required about 13 miles (21 km) of improved roads and 14 miles (23 km) of power lines, along with storage and treatment facilities for tailings and wastewater.