The Obama administration is expected to announce a temporary ban on new mining claims on U.S. Forest Service land near Yellowstone National Park.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, along with U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D), will make the announcement at Chico Hot Springs.
The announcement (which covers approximately 30,000 acres) does not directly affect the two mining applications from Spokane-based Crevice Mining Group LLC and British Columbia-based Lucky Minerals Inc. However, the removal of lands nearly adjacent to these claims from mining could impact their viability.
For over a year, Crevice has sought a permit to conduct exploratory drilling on a site near Jardine, Montana; the state’s Department of Environmental Quality twice rejected the application, citing concerns over the mine’s environmental impact and the possibility of Crevice sidestepping the permitting process for a larger mine. Likewise, Lucky Minerals Inc. has sought to perform exploratory drilling in Emigrant Gulch; Montana DEQ tentatively signed off on the company’s exploratory drilling plans, but called for public comment through December 12.
Opposition to mining around Yellowstone National Park has been vocal. In June, the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition penned a letter to the U.S. Forest Service, asking them to perform an “administrative mineral withdrawal” on 31,400 acres of land in the Paradise Valley. Senator Tester penned a letter in mid-October against mining around Yellowstone National Park. In addition, U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) has spoken out against mining in the Paradise Valley.
During the temporary ban, according to the Chronicle, the Interior Department will conduct an environmental analysis to determine whether mining claims should be suspended for as many as 20 years.
Mineral rights will still be on the table, irrespective of the ban on mining claims; it would take congressional legislation to withdraw mineral rights permanently in the area.