Forest Service releases final EIS on Montanore proposal

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SANDPOINT - The U.S. Forest Service has released a final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision for the proposed Montanore copper and silver mine in northwestern Montana.

"The FEIS and draft ROD is the culmination of many years of dedication and effort on the part of Forest Service employees and the participating agencies," Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Chris Savage said. "Now we can begin the objection process so that the public has a chance to review and provide substantive comments during the next phase of this process."

Those who have already raised objections to the proposal have 45 days to comment on the final EIS and the record of decision.

Montanore Minerals Corp., a subsidiary of Mines Management Inc., seeks to develop the mine 18 miles south of Libby. Montanore plans to extract as much as 20,000 tons of ore per day when the mine attains its full production rate.

Mines Management Chairman and CEO Glenn Dobbs said the project would employ as many as 500 people and result in a permanent workforce of 300, bringing a large annual payroll to Lincoln County, which has an unemployment rate of 13 percent.

"The positive effects of the Montanore Mine on Libby and Lincoln County's roads, schools, hospitals and health care, businesses and other infrastructure are incalculable," Dobbs said in a statement.

Save Our Cabinets is challenging the mining proposal, which it views as a threat to the grizzly bear and the ecology of Rock Creek, Rock Lake and Bull River.

The project is also being bird-dogged by the Rock Creek Alliance, which is fighting Hecla Mining's proposal to develop its own copper and silver mine in the Kootenai National Forest.

"The Montanore Mine is actually going to reach into the Rock Creek drainage and de-water Rock Creek and the East Fork of the Bull River," said Mary Crowe Costello, executive director of Rock Creek Alliance.

Kootenai National Forest officials contend they picked a development alternative which minimizes adverse environmental impacts on groundwater and surface water resources. The measures include refining the three-dimensional groundwater model to assess effects, increasing mining buffer zones and installing multiple tunnel plugs upon closure.

Savage said in the ROD that the Kootenai National Forest had little choice but to permit the mine.

"The KNF has no authority to unreasonably circumscribe or prohibit reasonably necessary activities under the General Mining Law that are otherwise lawful," Savage wrote.

n Written objections must be submitted to Objection Reviewing Officer, USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, 200 East Broadway, Missoula, MT. They can also be faxed to (406) 329-3411 or emailed to appeals-northern-regional-office@fs.fed.us with "Montanore Project Objection" in the subject line.

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