Cabinet Mountains Wilderness
United States | Montana | Montanore Mine
The Montanore Mine is an underground copper/silver project proposed adjacent to and underneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwest Montana. Similar to the proposed Rock Creek Mine -- Montanore would blast miles of tunnels beneath the mountains, meadows, and alpine lakes of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area.
The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area was one of the nation’s first wilderness areas to receive protection. Today, this 93,000 acre gem remains the sole wilderness area in the 2.2 million-acre Kootenai National Forest. It supports:
- A small population of 30-40 grizzly bears that are struggling to survive.
- The two most important bull trout recovery streams in the lower Clark Fork River watershed.
- Wilderness lakes and streams that provide clean, cold and abundant water for wildlife and downstream communities.
If the mine is approved, it will have lasting impacts on water, wildlife and wilderness.
Dewatering Wilderness Lakes and Streams
To keep underground tunnels dry during mining, the water table would be lowered 10 to 1,000 feet throughout a large area of the Wilderness Area. As this map shows, groundwater dependent rivers and lakes in the Wilderness would suffer the consequences. The EIS predicts that 26 miles of rivers and streams would experience reduced streamflows. Some would be permanently diminished.
Photo: Clark Fork Coalition
Harming Bull Trout
The East Fork of Bull River and Rock Creek are the two most important recovery areas for threatened bull trout in the lower Clark Fork River watershed. The reduction of flow in these streams will be particularly harmful for bull trout, which rely on these cold, clear streams for spawning.
"Because the East Fork Bull River is considered the most important bull trout stream in the lower Clark Fork River drainage, decreased levels of bull trout spawning within this stream could have long-term adverse effects on bull trout population within the lower Clark Fork River Drainage.” -- Page 146 of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
Threatening Grizzly Bears
The Cabinet Yaak grizzly bear population is already hanging on by a thread. Important grizzly bear habitat will be destroyed during mining, and the cumulative impact of two mines (Montanore and Rock Creek) will jeopardize the migratory corridor that is critical to their recovery.
What are we doing?
In 2016, Earthworks, Save Our Cabinets and the Clark Fork Coalition filed a legal challenge against the Forest Service for approving the full mine plan because it violates state and federal laws to protect Outstanding Resource Waters, threatened species and fails to include mitigation measures to protect these valuable public resources from permanent harm.
For more information:
- Montana Department of Environmental Quality: Montanore Environmental Statement documents. This page lists all federal EIS documents under review in which DEQ is involved. It includes the Montanore/Troy mine draft and supplemental EISs.
- Earthworks comments on the Montanore SEIS -- with links to other expert comments from Tom Myers (on groundwater modeling), Ann Maest, PhD (on geochemical issues), and Christopher Frissell (on the impacts on bull trout).
- Draft EIS comments from the Interior Department's Fish & Wildlife Service regarding impacts on endangered bull trout, grizzlies and lynx.
- Montanore Draft EIS statement from the Center for Science in Public Participation, which focuses on a review of the seismic safety considerations for the Montanore tailings dam.
- Earthworks and Western Mining Action Project, et. al. Montanore Mine Objection May 14, 2015
- Groundwater drawdown impacts of the Montanore mine proposal. Source: Draft Supplemental EIS