Conservation groups request intervention in Hecla lawsuit

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Conservation groups are requesting to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Hecla Mining Company against Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

The request for intervention follows Hecla filing a lawsuit against Montana DEQ for hitting the mining company with bad actor violations, which centered on Hecla CEO Phillips S. Baker Jr. Montana DEQ alleges that Baker’s previous involvement with Pegasus Gold, which declared bankruptcy and left Montana with a costly environmental mess to clean up, preclude him from participating in any mining operations in Montana. DEQ officials said Hecla can address the bad actor violations by compensating the state for the cleanup effort, which adds up to tens of millions of dollars.

The conservation groups seeking to intervene in the lawsuit, including Earth Justice, Clark Fork Coalition, Montana Conservation Voters, Save Our Cabinets, Montana Environmental Information Center and Earthworks, originally requested that Montana DEQ enforce its bad actor laws against Hecla. The groups have been involved in a lengthy court battle to halt Hecla’s proposed Rock Creek and Montanore mine projects. While the mines are proposed for Montana, many local conservationists worry toxic runoff from the operations could contaminate North Idaho waterways.

“Allowing a mining company headed by a former top executive of Pegasus Gold to construct two massive mines beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness would be foolhardy and irresponsible,” said Mary Costello, coordinator of Save Our Cabinets, in a press release. “Clean water, unspoiled public lands, and abundant wildlife are the legacy we want for future generations of Montanans.”

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