Lucky Minerals Inc. has been given the go-ahead to explore for gold on private land north of Yellowstone National Park in spite of local opposition.
The news comes the same day as a hearing in the U.S. Senate for a bill proposed by Montana Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) for a bill to permanently withdraw approximately 30,000 acres of land in the Paradise Valley near the Lucky Minerals site.
According to the Billings Gazette, the company, based in Canada, agreed to “extensive water quality and wildlife monitoring plans” after a months-long review by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
Although the claim is on private land, a full-fledged mine may not be economically viable unless operations can expand onto the adjacent public land.
Lucky Minerals is one of two companies looking to mine just north of Yellowstone. The other company, Spokane, Washington-based Crevice Mining Group LLC, has had its application rejected multiple times due to concerns over how the company would handle wastewater and whether the company was attempting to abuse a special permit to dodge reclamation costs.
Local opposition from the conservationists and the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition has been fierce. Indeed, the YGBC has sought to enlist U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) in their effort to block mining in the area, which they say poses a threat to the river and the local economy.
According to the Gazette, at today’s hearing, Daines “appeared to speak favorably” of the measure, but did not endorse Tester’s bill, with a spokesperson saying they are looking at other options. Daines has previously said any attempts to withdraw land must respect property rights.
The land in question is under a two-year mining claim moratorium as of November 2016, under order of then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Current Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke against mining north of Yellowstone when he was Montana’s sole U.S. Congressman. His successor, Greg Gianforte (R) likewise spoke out against the mines while campaigning to replace Zinke.