The Kootenai National Forest approved the first phase of the Rock Creek silver and copper mine near Noxon on Tuesday, but the proposal’s fate remains uncertain due to a legal dispute with state regulators.
The mine would burrow beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area. The proposal does not mean work starts immediately.
Chris Savage is the Kootenai National Forest Supervisor and says, "the next thing that is required is a plan of operation. They still have to go through all the different processes for them to get the proper permits and requirements before we can do a finalization on their plan of operation. There’s still many months ahead."
Idaho-based Hecla Minerals would initially mine on 20 acres to determine the feasibility of a full-scale mine covering almost 500 acres.
Montana regulators in June asked a judge to block Hecla CEO Phillips Baker Junior from exploring or opening any new mines in the state.
They say he’s violated Montana’s ‘bad actor’ law because of ongoing pollution caused by a mining company where Baker once worked.
Baker denies the claim.