Montana judge blocks mining in Yellowstone because the environment is more valuable than gold
It’s a court ruling that mining companies are likely to raise objections to, a Montana judge ensured this week that Yellowstone National Park and the public lands surrounding it will be protected from mining for years to come.
Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas are a national treasure. Americans have been exploring the wonders of the park since 1872 when it was first founded by a law signed by former President Ulysses Grant.
Spanning an area of nearly 3,500 square miles across the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, Yellowstone is home to hundreds of animal species, spectacular natural vistas including forests and mountains, and attractions such as Old Faithful geyser.
As one of the last wild natural lands in the United States free of industry, miners would definitely love to exploit it for every last metal and mineral at the cost of our heritage and the environment itself.
Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals Inc. wanted to mine for gold there and claimed the right to drill in order to find it.
But Montana district court Judge Brenda Gilbert put an end to those plans earlier this week by ruling against the company after the Park County Environmental Council and Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed a lawsuit arguing that the mining license is invalid and violates the Montana state constitution.
According to Earth Justice, which represented the plaintiffs:
The ruling blocks exploratory drilling that was slated to begin on July 15, 2019, and is a significant victory in the multi-year effort to protect Yellowstone National Park from new mines surrounding the national park.
The ruling invalidates Lucky Minerals’ exploration license, establishing that it would violate the public’s environmental and public participation rights under Montana’s Constitution to allow the illegal project to move forward.
It turns out that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the defendant, didn’t consider how the mining plan would threaten wildlife and water quality, therefore illegally issuing the license.
Montana’s constitution includes “the strongest environmental provision found in any state constitution,” and it’s why Earth Justice attorneys handily won the case.
“This ruling ensures that Lucky Minerals can’t harm clean water and native wildlife at the gateway into Yellowstone National Park under cover of a license that was never legally issued in the first place,” Earth Justice attorney Jenny Harbine said in a statement. “Lucky Minerals should have read the writing on the wall a long time ago.”
“Lucky Minerals should have learned by now that our community will not rest until our irreplaceable wild places are safe from industrial gold mining,” Park County Environmental Council Executive Director Michelle Uberuaga added. “We will win because local residents, businesses, and elected officials are united to protect our natural resources and local economy against this threat.”
Indeed, in a rare show of support for environmental protection, even the Trump administration intervened to protect the park and surrounding lands from mining.
Clearly, Yellowstone truly is worth more than the prospect of gold, which the miners may not have even found no matter how hard they searched for it. It’s just not worth destroying the magnificence of a park that former President and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt greatly admired.
“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred,” Roosevelt said in 1903.
With this ruling, the Montana courts did just that.
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