Federal court shakes up Hecla mining plans

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

A court ruling this week adds yet another twist in the saga of Hecla’s proposed Montana mining projects, including the Montanore and Rock Creek mines.

According to a ruling in Missoula, Mont., by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, an approval of the Montanore Mine by 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. The ruling hinged on Montanore’s location near the border of protected wilderness as well as Hecla’s plans to drill underground into wilderness territory.

“We’re really pleased with this decision,” said Mary Costello of Rock Creek Alliance. “The Forest Service approved a mine that they knew would violate water quality laws.”

The ruling is seen as a major win by the several organizations fighting the Hecla mining projects, including the Western Mining Action Project, Earthjustice, Save Our Cabinets and the Rock Creek Alliance.

“The Court agreed with us on the biggest issue: that the agencies cannot approve a mine whose dewatering (to keep the underground working dry for 20-plus years) will reduce flows in Wilderness streams and otherwise degrade pristine streams outside the Wilderness,” wrote Roger Flynn of the Western Mining Action Project in a press release.

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