The judge revoked the government’s approval for the first phase of a long-stagnation copper and silver mine that a company in Idaho would build under the wilderness in northwestern Montana.
Decision on Rock Creek MineEast of the Idaho border and north of Kellogg’s, Idaho is the latest in a series of legal retreats for the first proposed project in the late 1980s.
Judge Donald Moroi of the US District Court Environmental review The federal authorities were inadequate because they considered only exploration work, not full-scale mining.
Rock creek Is one of two mine proposed by Hecla Mining, based in Coder Lane, tunneling under Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, which is rich in wildlife such as trout, grizzly bears and wolverines.
According to the US Forest Service, the area has been sporadically mined since the early 1800s. However, there are concerns that the large-scale project proposed by Hekra could deplete the groundwater supply and damage the habitat of brook trout protected by the federal government.
The wilderness of the Cabinet Mountains is protected under federal law, but existing mining claims allow mining.
Kootenai National Forest Officials in 2019 approved plans for Hekra to begin exploration work after a review in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Due to a court opposition, the company did not proceed immediately.
Hekra Vice President Luke Russell said the company is considering Moroi’s April 14 ruling and has not decided whether to appeal.
“We were disappointed and surprised,” Russell said. “We thought the agency did the right thing here.”
A representative of a group suing the project said the government’s decision to limit environmental reviews to exploration work was “a fairly clear attempt to downplay the impact on grizzly bears and brook trout.”
“This approach to fragmenting the project has been rejected by courts many times in the past,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a lawyer at the Center for Biodiversity.
The Rock Creek mine employs about 300 people and covers about 500 acres.
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said authorities did not comment on the ruling.
The final decision on Hekra’s second mine on Cabinet Mountain, known as the Montanoa mine, is pending.