Federal judge overturns approvals for proposed Montana mine

Print Article

FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2010, file photo, the snowcapped Cabinet Mountains tower over the lush Kootenai River Valley outside of Libby, Mont. A federal judge has overturned government agency approvals to develop a copper and silver mine under a wilderness area in northwestern Montana, saying the agency decisions violated laws meant to protect threatened grizzly bears, bull trout and their habitat. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated laws meant to protect threatened species and their habitat in approving the development of a copper and silver mine under a wilderness area in Montana, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on Tuesday ruled the agencies would have to reconsider their findings related to the Montanore Mine in the Kootenai National Forest about 18 miles south of Libby.
Molloy said the project is expected to reduce stream flows for threatened bull trout and increase the potential for human interactions with threatened grizzly bears, and it made no sense for the wildlife service to say the project would not harm those species.
The Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act in relying on those flawed biological opinions in granting permission to develop the mine, Molloy wrote.
Willie Sykes, a public information officer with the Kootenai National Forest, said the agency was reviewing Molloy's decision and could not yet comment.
"Yesterday's ruling underscores how wrong it is to site major industrial facilities on the doorstep of public wilderness lands that provide irreplaceable habitat for imperiled wildlife," Earthjustice lawyer Katherine O'Brien said in a statement Wednesday.
She represented several conservation groups who challenged the approvals for the mine.
The Montanore Mine, proposed by Coeur d'Alene, Idaho-based Hecla, sought to mine ore underneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness by accessing the underground deposit from land just outside the wilderness area.
The agencies approved the mine despite decisions that acknowledged impacts including lowered stream flows that would make bull trout spawning areas unreachable and dumping wastewater into the stream that is too warm for the threatened fish, the conservation groups argued.
The wildlife services' biological opinion concluded the mine would lead to the death of one grizzly bear over a 30-year period and that mitigation efforts planned by Hecla would more than offset that death, but Molloy found the agency had no precise data to make such a statement.
Officials with Hecla did not return a phone call seeking comment, but company officials have said they have spent about $46 million to bring the project into compliance with new mining regulations. The mine would create an estimated 350 permanent jobs.
Glenn Dobbs with Mines Management, which was acquired by Hecla, has said the Montanore Mine would be "environmentally benign" and said the lawsuits raised alarm over worst-case scenarios that are unlikely to happen.
In a separate but related complaint, Molloy also found approvals for the project violated the Clean Water Act, the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Montana Senate candidate withdraws

July 17, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The Democratic candidate campaigning for Montana’s Senate District 5 seat withdrew from the race June 29. Jennifer Allen said she withdrew her candidacy after her husband was diagnosed with cancer. ...

Comments

Read More

New advocacy group to grade efforts on aquatic invaders

July 17, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake A new player has emerged in the fight for the protection of the region’s waters, and next month the Watershed Protection Advocates of Northwest Montana will begin filling out its own “report card” on...

Comments

Read More

Called to teach

July 16, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake At her West Valley home on July 9, Janelle Ruby traced her finger along the raised dots of braille cells. Ruby, 35, is in the midst of the challenging task of learning braille. Opening a thick bind...

Comments

Read More

Camping restrictions lifted in Many Glacier

July 16, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Daily Inter Lake Glacier National Park on Monday lifted restrictions on tent camping in the Many Glacier Campground. The restriction were put in place June 30 after a small grizzly bear entered the campground and...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2018 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X