Victory! GYC wins Yellowstone mine lawsuit

Great news! We won our suit asking the state of Montana to take a harder look at a Canadian company’s risky gold-mining project at Yellowstone’s gateway.

 Anglers fishing the Yellowstone River with Emigrant Gulch in the background. A judge this week agreed with us that Montana DEQ needed to take a closer look at the industrial-scale gold project Canadian company Lucky Minerals is planning to develop in the Gulch. (Photo Bill Campbell.)

Anglers fishing the Yellowstone River with Emigrant Gulch in the background. A judge this week agreed with us that Montana DEQ needed to take a closer look at the industrial-scale gold project Canadian company Lucky Minerals is planning to develop in the Gulch. (Photo Bill Campbell.)

Park County District Judge Brenda Gilbert ruled this week that Montana's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did not in fact look closely enough at Lucky Minerals' plans for issuing the Canadian company its exploration license. We welcome Judge Gilbert's decision, and we're thankful to Earthjustice for representing us and our partner Park County Environmental Council on this lawsuit. 

One of our points was that Lucky Minerals had no plan for if their drills tapped into Emigrant Gulch’s abundant groundwater, upstream from the Yellowstone River. The judge agreed, saying the DEQ didn’t take a hard look at water quality, and that Lucky needed to have a concrete plan in place for possible water problems.

We’re pleased that the judge agreed with us on this and our other points. Lucky’s proposed mines threaten not only water and wildlife at Yellowstone’s northern gateway, but they also threaten local Montana jobs and the thriving economy in Park County. Local entrepreneurs are responsible for nearly 40 percent of all jobs in the county. Fishing alone brings the county area $70 million each year, or $4,400 for every man, woman, and child in the county. We can’t risk the Yellowstone River or the economy that depends on it just so a Canadian mining company can take a gamble in Paradise Valley.

Our lawsuit is just one part of our work to keep risky mines away from Yellowstone. And we’re not alone. Montanans of all political stripes oppose fly-by-night mining companies that are planning two job-killing, risky mines at Yellowstone’s northern gateway. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is urging a mining ban here and is pledging money and staff to see it through. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) introduced a companion bill to the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), and we’re asking Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) to co-sponsor the Senate bill and help get it passed. Hundreds of local businesses in Paradise Valley have joined together to fight the projects. And thousands of Montanans told DEQ that Lucky’s project would risk the healthy local economy and quality of life in Paradise Valley.

From Emigrant locals all the way up to the Secretary of the Interior, everyone agrees that Yellowstone is more valuable than gold. It’s time for Lucky Minerals to walk away. We welcome today’s court victory, and we look forward to Lucky Minerals dropping its unpopular and risky plans to mine at Yellowstone’s gateway.

--Caroline Byrd, Executive Director