Legal fight for the proposed Rock Creek Mine advances 

Noxon Montan| Clark Fork River| Lake Pend Oreille 

Proposed Rock Creek Mine Developments  

The Rock Creek Mine Project is a proposed underground copper and silver mine located in Sanders County of northwestern Montana. The proposed mine will be situated on 481 acres adjacent to the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area and could operate for approximately 40 years. The proposed mine would be located near Noxon Montana in the Cabinet Mountains, which is sensitive Bull Trout and Grizzly Bear habitat.

The mine, proposed in the 1980’s, has faced legal battles from numerous environmental and tribal groups. Complaints from these groups indicate that the mine will threaten endangered species and their habitats, disrupt water resource rights, and point out a ‘bad actor’ within the proposed mining company (Hecla Mining Company’s CEO, Phillips S. Baker).

After many lengthy legal battles, on Wednesday June 17th, the Ksanka Kupaqa Xa’lcin, a tribal group linked to the Ksanka Band of the Ktunaxa (Kootenai) Nation and six environmental groups filed a motion for summary judgement in their lawsuit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service pertaining to the mine. The groups do not believe a trial is needed and that the area should be preserved for endangered species. The environmental and tribal groups hope that any chances for the construction of the mine will soon come to an end.   

The groups argue that violations against the Endangered Species Act would be committed if the mine were to proceed with blasting a 6,300-foot underground adit to access the mineral deposits. The blasting would generate 90,000 tons of waste. The environmental group’s also contend that the mine would inflict permanent harm on bull trout by draining water from wilderness streams on which the species depends. Additionally, construction of the mine threatens the public’s enjoyment of the area for solitude, recreation and wildlife viewing.

We will be watching as this story unfolds and we hope the courts will rule in favor of the environmental and tribal groups to preserve some of the purest waters in the lower 48 from the destructive impacts threatened by the Rock Creek Mine. We contend that the state’s job is to protect Montana’s waters for the health and benefits of all Montanans and downstream communities – not give those waters away to corporate interests.

Please stay tuned as this nearly 40 year-long battle comes to a close… hopefully!

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