Rock Creek Mine approval determined unlawful

By Reader Staff

Backers of the Rock Creek Mine, proposed near Noxon, Mont., and the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, will need to go back to square one, as a federal district court judge halted the project April 14 due to unlawful initial approval from federal agencies.

The decision is a victory for the conservation and tribal groups that brought the suit, arguing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest services failed to adequately consider environmental impacts before approving the mine, which is proposed by Hecla Mining Company. 

In the case of the Rock Creek mine, legal counsel for the plaintiffs argued that USFW approved a biological opinion based only on Phase I of the mine’s plan, which included only an evaluation adit, ignoring the biological impacts of Phase II: the actual construction and use of the mine. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy determined that the one-phase analysis approach was not lawful.

Opponents of the project — which has been in the works for more than 20 years — have long argued that mining would cause detrimental effects to local endangered wildlife populations.

“We are gratified by the court’s decision, which affirmed that the agencies cannot gamble with the fate of imperiled grizzly bears and bull trout by ignoring the full impacts of the Rock Creek Mine,” said Earthjustice attorney Katherine O’Brien, who represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Another longstanding concern is the possible negative effects to local rivers and lakes — including Lake Pend Oreille, which is downstream from the proposed mine.

“We are thrilled with this decision as it represents an important and timely reprieve for grizzly bears, bull trout and clean water that would be irrevocably harmed by the Rock Creek mine,” said Mary Costello, executive director of Sandpoint-based conservation group Rock Creek Alliance.

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.