In mid-April, a Montana district court denied a permit that would have allowed Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals Inc. to mine for gold in Emigrant Gulch, just north of Yellowstone Park. Years of hard work is finally paying off, which is why environmental activists are celebrating the development.
Lucky Minerals was scheduled to begin exploratory drilling on July 15, 2019. However, the court’s recent ruling invalidates their license. It was determined that gold mining would violate the public’s environmental and public participation rights under Montana’s Constitution. Earthjustice reports, “The ruling is the result of a lawsuit brought by Park County Environmental Council and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, both represented by Earthjustice.”
“This ruling ensures that Lucky Minerals can’t harm clean water and native wildlife at the gateway into Yellowstone National Park under cover of a license that was never legally issued in the first place,” said Jenny Harbine, an attorney fro Earthjustice. “Lucky Minerals should have read the writing on the wall a long time ago.”
In a previous case, the same court ruled that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality illegally approved the drilling plan by failing to consider the plan’s threat to the environment and wildlife. Lucky Minerals was given a slap on the wrist. However, the company was still permitted to conduct the exploratory drilling. As the court explained, this left the public with “no meaningful chance to participate in the agency decision” before the drilling began.
This prompted Congressional leaders and federal agencies to get involved. On October 8, 2018, then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke worked to make adjacent public lands around Yellowstone off limits to mining with a 20-year mineral withdrawal. And on March 12,2019, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan public lands bill to make the protections permanent.
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“The court’s ruling is a critical piece in protecting Yellowstone’s Gateway from the menace of gold mining,” said Greater Yellowstone Coalition Executive Director Caroline Byrd. “The Trump administration, the Obama administration, Congress, the Forest Service, the Park County Commission, thousands of citizens and more than 420 Montana businesses all agree, Yellowstone is more valuable than gold.”
“Lucky Minerals should have learned by now that our community will not rest until our irreplaceable wild places are safe from industrial gold mining,” said Park County Environmental Council Executive Director Michelle Uberuaga. “We will win because local residents, businesses, and elected officials are united to protect our natural resources and local economy against this threat.”
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