An environmental group sued the state of Montana today over the state’s decision to grant permission for a gold hunt in the mountains north of Yellowstone National Park.
The Park County Environmental Council and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, represented by Earth Justice, sued the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in Park County District Court today, arguing that the DEQ’s analysis of Canadian gold mining company Lucky Minerals’ exploratory drilling plans in Emigrant Gulch were inadequate.
In late July, DEQ gave Lucky Minerals permission to start work on mineral exploration project near Emigrant Peak, the mountain that rises above Chico Hot Springs in the center of the Paradise Valley.
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.
DEQ spent more than a year working on an environmental analysis, and in July, they approved Lucky’s plans to drill 46 exploratory holes on private land near Emigrant Peak. They asked the company to put up $154,274 in cash for a reclamation bond before doing any drilling.