VICTORY! Montana court denies mining company permit to explore for gold near Yellowstone

Yesterday, a Montana district court ruled in our favor and denied a permit that would have allowed Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals to explore for gold in Emigrant Gulch just north of Yellowstone National Park. Along with the passage of the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act that permanently protects public lands, this stunning victory further drives a stake through the heart of the proposed gold mining threatening the Yellowstone River and Paradise Valley.

An overview of the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone National Park. (Photo Bill Campbell.)

An overview of the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone National Park. (Photo Bill Campbell.)

It’s outrageous to think back that Lucky Minerals was just one day away from a receiving a cursory “checklist” drilling permit on June 30, 2015 before the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Earthjustice, and others stepped in to protest.

Here is a brief timeline of the lawsuits that have stemmed from that decision:

September 22, 2017 – Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Park County Environmental Council, represented by Earthjustice, files a lawsuit asking Montana’s DEQ to take a harder look at Lucky Minerals’ risky gold mining project, including water quality and wildlife habitat.

May 25, 2018 – District Court Judge Brenda Gilbert rules in our favor that DEQ did not fully consider the overall effect on the environment from Lucky Minerals’ plan. This decision declares their exploration license unlawful.

June 1, 2018 – Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Park County Environmental Council, represented by Earthjustice, files a constitutional challenge against the loopholes in Montana law that would allow Lucky Minerals to move forward despite losing the lawsuit back in May.

April 15, 2019 – Judge Gilbert again sides with GYC and invalidates Lucky Minerals’ permit, for good!

What’s next? If Lucky Minerals wants to continue exploratory drilling in Emigrant Gulch, they will have to undergo a full-blown analysis which could take years to complete. The state of Montana and Lucky Minerals may also choose to appeal to the state Supreme Court. But in the meantime, Lucky has no permit to drill for gold in Emigrant Gulch. However, we still have work to do with the Crevice Mining Group. Their proposed gold mine touches Yellowstone National Park and their Small Mining Exception allows them to drill without an Environmental Assessment on private lands.

A huge thank you to our attorney, Jenny Harbine, and her associates at Earthjustice for helping us achieve this incredible win! We also thank our partners at Park County Environmental Council for seeing this mining threat to the end with us.

—Joe Josephson, Senior Montana Conservation Associate