A pair of environmental and conservation coalitions are suing the state of Montana over its decision to let Lucky Minerals Inc. do drilling north of Yellowstone.
The Park County Environmental Council and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, represented by Earthjustice, have sued over the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to let Lucky Minerals perform exploratory drilling at a site in Emigrant Gulch. Shortly after, the company announced it could begin drilling by the end of the year.
Last month, the DEQ issued a $154,274 bond request to Lucky Minerals, which balked at the amount. Indeed, Lucky Minerals vice president Shaun Dykes said the bond was “about five times what it should be.” The DEQ contends the bond cost would cover reclamation costs should the company not pursue any mining after the exploratory drilling. The company did not say whether the bond amount would alter their plans for the future.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the groups are arguing the DEQ did not analyze Lucky Minerals’ drilling plans thoroughly enough:
Jenny Harbine, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that was based on a flawed analysis, and that DEQ needs to spend more time looking at the project and its long-term consequences.
“DEQ should have considered that this exploration project is really just the leading edge of a much larger, much more threatening set of full-scale mining activities,” Harbine said.
Mineral exploration is the first step in mine development. Lucky Minerals first proposed looking for gold in Emigrant Gulch in 2015, having staked thousands of acres of mining claims.
Locals and environmentalists joined forces to try and fight against the company. They argue that the exploration project will lead to a large-scale mine with the potential to harm the environment and the region’s tourism economy.
Lucky Minerals disputes that, arguing their small-scale exploration project won’t harm the environment and won’t lead to an open pit mine.
Lucky Minerals is one of two companies looking to mine north of Yellowstone National Park. The other, Crevice Mining Group LLC, has had its application rejected repeatedly due to wastewater and reclamation concerns.
Although the Lucky Minerals claim is on private land, the consensus is they’d need access to adjacent public lands in order to create a successful mine. Currently, approximately 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service Land is off-limits to new mining claims by order of then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. That ban is slated to last until 2018 while the Interior completes an environmental analysis.
Current Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has called for at least a 20-year withdrawal of said forestland, arguing that any mining north of Yellowstone would have a deleterious effect on the region. To that end, he has spurred officials to speed up their analysis and also include things like phosphate and oil in their analysis.