Plans to bring the Montanore silver and copper mine in northwest Montana into production were halted when a judge in Lincoln County, MT ruled that Mines Management Inc. and its subsidiary, Montanore Minerals, cannot use sections of its existing mine entrance for the Montanore project, The Spokesman-Review reported.
The single-entrance adit starts on the east side of the wilderness and burrows downward roughly 425 m (14,000 ft) west. About half of the adit is under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, according to Mines Management statements.
The court ruled that Lewiston, MT resident Walter Lindsey has a valid claim on land near the adit’s entrance, and Mines Management cannot trespass on that claim.
The court also said other claims by a second claim-holder, Arnold Bakie of Athol, are “senior” to some claims filed by Mines Management on land alongside the adit.
“What that means is that Mines Management can’t do anything there without the permission of Arnold Bakie,” Frank Wall, a North Idaho mining engineer who has worked for a number of groups opposing the Montanore mine told The Spoakane-Review.
Mines Management took over the adit from Canadian mining company Noranda Minerals Corp. in 2002. The adit is still roughly 920 m (3,000 ft) away from reaching a large ore body under the Cabinet Mountains.
Mines Management has said in releases the Montanore ore body is estimated at 7.2 kt (230 million oz) of silver and nearly 907 kt (2 billion lbs) of copper, making it potentially one of the largest precious metals mines in North America.
For more than a decade the Montanore project has been challenged both by smaller mining interests and by regional environmentalists.
Coeur d’Alene attorney Rollin Watson, who represented Lindsey and Libby Creek Ventures, a group of claimants also opposing Mines Management, said the court ruling is a major blow to the project.
“The judge’s ruling against them (Mines Management) essentially enjoins them from going forward,” Watson said.
Glenn Dobbs, CEO and chairman of Mines Management, said his attorneys filed an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court. They’ll argue the judge incorrectly interpreted the locations of Lindsey’s claims, and that Mines Management has valid claims covering the entire length of the adit.
Dobbs said he intends to move forward with plans for the Montanore project, including expecting a final environmental impact statement to be issued this year by the U.S. Forest Service.
A second proposed Cabinet Wilderness silver and copper mine, involving Revett Minerals based in Spokane Valley, is also stalled pending several court challenges.
Revett plans to develop the Rock Creek Mine, which would start on the west edge of the wilderness and head eastward underneath it.