Montana Mine Could be Death Sentence for Grizzlies

Grizzly bear
Habitat destruction and toxic mine waste from the proposed Montanore mine put grizzlies at risk. Photo: USFWS
The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwest Montana is one of the wildest places on earth, and the only protected land in the 2.3 million acre Kootenai National Forest. Here, one of North America’s most endangered grizzly bear populationsmoves across a landscape of rugged mountain peaks and alpine lakes cut by clear streams.

But if the mining company aggressively pursuing the copper and silver here gets its way, these bears could be headed for regional extinction.

The proposed Montanore project–a silver and copper mine located near Libby, Montana–would be one of the largest underground mines of its type in North America, and would change the wildlife, clean water, and wild country here forever.

10 Reasons to Stop Montanore Mine:

  1. Up to 27,000 acres of critical grizzly bear habitat would be destroyed–a death sentence for the remaining 20-40 grizzly bears inhabiting the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
  2. Construction of an unlined tailings reservoir capable of containing 120 million tons of mining waste into perpetuity would require the construction of a dam 360 feet high and 10,300 feet long– consuming over 600 acres of National Forest Land.
  3. It will take a predicted 500 years to fill the gigantic mine void with water, and it would take 1,172 years for the base flow of water in the area to reach a “steady state.”
  4. An important ancestral cultural area for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes would be destroyed.
  5. 13 million gallons of polluted water would be discharged each year into streams, wetlands, and springs.
  6. Threatened Canada lynx would experience massive habitat loss and increased mortality.
  7. Massive dewatering of lakes and streams due to underground excavation could potentially decimate threatened native bull trout populations.
  8. The ore separation process will leave health-threatening amounts of such chemicals as antimony and manganese in the groundwater—known to cause a litany of health issues in humans and animals.
  9. Noise and visual impacts from blasting, heavy equipment operation, increased traffic, and helicopter use will not only be significant for wildlife, but also would seriously affect the wilderness experience sought by outdoor enthusiasts.
  10. Montanore mine would be located within one mile of the proposed Rock Creek mine, and the cumulative impacts from two mining operations would result in the demise of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.

What Can Be Done:

For too long, the mines that produce our gold, silver, copper, and uranium have been using our nation’s most pristine streams, lakes, and groundwater as dumping grounds for their toxic wastes. These are the waters from which we drink, in which our children swim, and which support our fish and wildlife.

In theory, the Clean Water Act should halt this destructive practice. Unfortunately, there are two “loopholes” in the regulations implementing the Clean Water Act that have allowed mine developers to circumvent the purpose of this critical law—making the mining industry the single largest source of toxic waste and one of the most environmentally destructive industries in the country.

The good news for people who care about pure water, community health, and abundant wildlife is that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers can close the mining loopholes with two simple changes to the Clean Water Act regulations. Closing the loopholes would not prohibit hard rock mining, but it would greatly reduce harmful and long-lasting impacts from large mines like Montanore mine and many others across the country that rely on these loopholes to cut costs and justify extensive environmental damage.

Just last week, the EPA released its watershed assessment of Bristol Bay, Alaska, to understand how future large-scale development may affect water quality and Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery.  This is a pivotal step in protecting this pristine region from the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine, and will hopefully shed some light on mining projects across the nation that threaten to pollute the waters that sustain our communities, fish, and wildlife.

The EPA needs to hear from you that there are some places too special to risk losing forever. The future of the grizzly bears of Montana’s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness–and many more wildlife that need protection from toxic mining pollution–depend on it.

Take ActionSpeak up to protect our nation’s waters and wildlife from the toxic pollution of hard rock mines.

Question: Are there any dangerous mining projects being proposed near you? What are your concerns?