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Environmentalists Sue Over Montanore Mine Near Libby

Kootenai National Forest sign.
Josh Burnham

Environmentalists are suing the U.S. Forest Service over the agency’s approval of the Montanore Mine near Libby. The lawsuit filed Friday says the government’s authorization for the mine in the Cabinet Mountains could drain surrounding waterways and harm a species of trout protected under federal law.

Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Chris Savage said Monday he hasn’t had a chance to look over the entire lawsuit, and he can’t comment on pending litigation.

But he said the mine's owner, Mines Management, needs more permits from other state and federal agencies before the Forest Service can sign off on a final operations plan.

"The DEQ and the Army Corps of Engineers are two of the key ones they still need to get the additional permits from."

If those permits are granted, the Forest Service will then determine if more review is needed under the National Environmental Policy Act.

So far, Montana regulators have granted only conditional approval, pending more evidence from the mine’s backers that it won’t drain overlying creeks.

The Clark Fork Coalition’s Karen Knudsen says the Forest Service hasn’t done enough to protect the land.

"The complete dewatering of wilderness streams and lakes within and downstream of the wilderness area is the most alarming aspect of this project for us."

The Clark Fork Coalition is joined by Earthworks and Save Our Cabinets in the lawsuit.

Montanore owner Mines Management did not immediately respond to Montana Public Radio’s request for comment.

The company has been seeking a mining permit for the project since 2004.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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