By Reader Staff
The legal battle over a water use permit for a proposed Montana silver and copper mine saw an about-face on Feb. 17, as the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the permit was lawfully administered.
The ruling overturns a 2019 district court opinion that “the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation failed to properly consider damage Hecla Mining Co’s Rock Creek Mine might do to the underground water supply,” the Missoulian reported.
The Supreme Court justices ruled 5-2 in favor of re-issuing the permit.
The proposed Rock Creek Mine would be located near Noxon, Mont., bordering the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. If approved in its entirety, the operation plans to discharge wastewater into the Clark Fork River, which flows into Lake Pend Oreille.
Conservation groups Clark Fork Coalition, Rock Creek Alliance, Earthworks and Montana Environmental Information Center have led the charge in opposing the mine, each listed as plaintiffs in the water permit suit.
“We’re disappointed in the court’s decision, but this decision applies to only one of the many harmful effects from the proposed Rock Creek Mine,” Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks told the Missoulian. “We will continue our work to protect the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and the threatened fish and wildlife that find refuge there.”
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