A Spokane, Washington-based mining company has resubmitted an application to look for gold outside Yellowstone National Park.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, citing Kristi Ponozzo, public policy director for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Crevice Mining Group LLC resubmitted their application last week.
The group first filed an application in October to perform “exploratory drilling” on Crevice Mountain, near the town of Jardine—approximately five miles away from Yellowstone’s northern border. Montana DEQ rejected the application in April, citing legal concerns. Crevice Mining currently holds a “small miner’s exclusion statement” (a process that exempts mines with “fewer than 5 acres of surface disturbance” from having to go through the same permitting procedure as larger mines) for the site.
Ponozzo told the Chronicle her department hasn’t evaluated the application yet, to see whether it addresses the concerns previously raised. Ponozzo added, “We’re really just working on reviewing it right now.” From the Chronicle:
The head of Crevice Mining Group, Michael Werner, said the new application was basically the same as the old one.
“There’s really no changes whatsoever in the scope of the vision,” Werner said.
Werner planned to combine the two operations into one. The original application said that exploration was meant to identify an ore body to be mined under the small miner’s exclusion.
But combining the two is what concerned DEQ. The two types of operations have different regulatory processes to go through, the small miner’s process being less rigorous. DEQ worried that some work the company planned had been left out of the application, that it could mean parts of an eventual mine go without a reclamation bond and that the surface disturbance would most likely exceed the 5-acre allowance.
They also raised concerns about some of the facilities the company planned to build on ground governed by the small miner’s permit and then used for the exploration project, including an exploration decline that would connect the two.
The new application, at least in some places, has been scrubbed of references to the small miner’s exclusion statement the company holds. Language that indicated the exploration project was meant to identify an ore body to mine under the small miner’s license was removed, as has language that indicated buildings on the small miner’s exclusion property would be used for exploration.
Some maps meant to show the layout of the project have been changed — one in particular that originally showed the layout of the small miner’s operation as well as the exploration operation now shows just the exploration operation. The exploration decline is now shown as being part of only the exploration project, not the small miner’s exclusion.
Werner insists that it is essentially the same application he submitted in October 2015, saying that he “didn’t alter a thing.”
“As far as I’m concerned there’s no substantial changes,” Werner said.
Crevice is not the only company hoping to mine north of Yellowstone. Since the plans came to light, local environmentalists have been trenchant in their criticism—and they’re not alone.
Last month, the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition penned a letter to the U.S. Forest Service, asking them to stop British Columbia-based Lucky Minerals Inc. from drilling on Emigrant Peak. The Coalition argued mining would negatively impact the community and would dissuade tourists from spending time in the area, which would mean losses for businesses. The Coalition also expressed concern over Crevice’s project.
Several Montana legislators, including U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D) and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R), have also come out against the project. From the Chronicle:
Karrie Kahle, the special events coordinator at Chico Hot Springs and a member of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, said she expected the company to resubmit its application, and that she expects Werner will try whatever it takes to get the mine up and running.
She said that Werner has made clear in public meetings that “this is what he wants to do and he doesn’t really care what the community has to say about it.”
Mining has taken place in the Jardine area in the past, including some exploratory drilling on Crevice Mountain. TVX Gold Inc. ran a mine on Mineral Hill until the mid-1990s, and conducted the exploration on Crevice Mountain. Werner is a former TVX executive, and parts of the application refer back to the exploration that TVX did on Crevice Mountain.