EARTHWORKS

Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

United States | Montana-Idaho | Sandpoint : Rock Creek Mine

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Rock Creek. Photo: Douglas R Day

The Rock Creek Mine Proposal

Mining company Revett Silver is proposing to develop an enormous copper/silver mine beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in Kootenai National Forest of western Montana -- one of the original ten ares protected by Congress under the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Despite the fact that the mine would tunnel beneath one of the first designated wilderness areas in the United States, the Forest Service claims that the General Mining Law of 1872 leaves them no choice but to permit the mine.

Ore would be extracted by hollowing out giant underground rooms, leaving overlying wilderness lands held up by rock pillars.

"There hasn't been a single hard rock mine in America developed, operated and reclaimed with the perfection needed to prevent the Rock Creek mine from fouling the Clark Fork River, threatening Lake Pend Oreille, and degrading the entire Congressionally designated wilderness area."
--- Montana Missoulian editorial

The company plans to discharge up to 3 million gallons of wastewater per day containing heavy metals and nutrient pollution into the lower Clark Fork River. Revett also plans to use unproven technology to store the 100-million-tons of toxic mining waste (tailings), which it would leave permanently in an unlined pile covering 346 acres just 1/4 mile from the Clark Fork River.

Mine Impacts

If it is approved, the Rock Creek Mine would:

"The community of Sandpoint has been consistently opposed to this mine, yet the federal government says its hands are tied by a law that predates Idaho Statehood. It's just not right that our concerns about our community's future don't hold any weight."
-- Loren Albright, local contractor and Sandpoint native

Strong Opposition

The mine is widely opposed by neighboring communities. The Bonner County Commission and the City of Sandpoint have passed formal resolutions in opposition to the mine. Public officials, businesses and residents of the area have repeatedly advocated for reform of the 1872 Mining Law. Some 60 Idaho panhandle businesses, as well as county commissioners and city council members, oppose the mine.


Location of Rock Creek and Montanore proposals in Montana's Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Click to view a larger map

Taking action to protect Montana's water, wildlife and wilderness

Earthworks, the Rock Creek Alliance, and other groups have successfully challenged the permit for this mine in court. On May 5, 2010, the federal court tossed out the mine permit, saying it fails to minimize impacts to water quality and fisheries. This is the third time that the court has ruled against this project. The mine must now go back to the drawing board to develop a revised plan.

With your support, we will continue our efforts to protect this important ecosystem.


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Tagged with: wilderness, sandpoint, rock creek alliance, revett silver, nickel, montana, grizzlies, cabinet mountains

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