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  Comments (3) Total Friday Apr. 25, 2014
Lincoln County Mines Sit Idle Into New Year
Mines Management CEO expresses frustration with Montanore Mine approval process
The headlights of an approaching vehicle deep inside the Montanore Mine atit illuminate a parked vehicle. - File photo by Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
Almost a year ago, Mines Management, Inc. CEO Glenn Dobbs stood in a mine adit 7,100 feet from the surface and said work could begin inside the Montanore Mine in 2013, as long as a federal record of decision was made and the proper licenses issued.

None of that has happened. And a year later, the copper and silver mine just south of Libby sits silent. It’s the same inside Revett Mineral Inc.’s Troy Mine, which has been shutdown for more than a year and probably won’t reopen until late 2014 because of a spate of underground rock falls.

The Troy Mine shutdown was a shock to Lincoln County’s already fragile economy. In late 2012, the mine employed more than 200 people, all of whom were kept on the payroll until May, when more than half were laid off. Today, about 60 people are working at the mine trying to reestablish a route to the deposits of copper and silver ore. On Dec. 20, the state announced that Lincoln County had the highest unemployment rate in the state, at 13.5 percent.

Dobbs said the opening of the Montanore Mine would employ 500 to 600 people during construction and 350 people once it is fully operational. Dobbs said the mine holds an estimated 230 million ounces of silver and 2 billion pounds of copper, making it one of the largest deposits on earth.

Exploration for copper and silver under the Cabinet Mountains began in the early 1980s by U.S. Borax. In the late 1980s, Canadian-based Noranda Minerals Corp. purchased claims and began to develop the site and seek mining permits. Noranda constructed a 14,000-foot exploration shaft, just outside the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. The company stopped developing the project in 1990 due to weak mineral prices and because blasting was releasing nitrates into Libby Creek. The site was closed in 1995 and the project abandoned in 2002. State and federal permits soon expired. In 2005, as copper and silver prices began to rebound, Mines Management began to explore the project and applied for new permits and to update existing ones. At the time, the mining company had hoped it would take two years to produce an environmental impact study and subsequent record of decision. Nearly nine years later the U.S. Forest Service’s record of decision has still not been issued.

“We don’t have whole lot to report,” Dobbs said. “It continues to move at a glacial speed … The company and the community are very frustrated with the whole process. It shouldn’t take this long.”

State and federal officials have spent years studying the mine’s potential effect on water, land and animals. A draft version of the environmental impact was released in 2009 and a supplemental draft was issued in 2011. In early 2012, federal officials, including the Forest Service’s Lynn Hagarty, told the Beacon that because of the size of the project it would take time to approve it.

Legal issues have also cropped up for Mines Management in recent months, with private citizens and other companies saying that they have mine claims in the area. Dobbs said that would be sorted out in court.

But while Dobbs said he is frustrated with the slow process, he feels confident the project will be approved in 2014. If approved, the company could start hiring within 45 to 60 days.

“I think if this drags out beyond 2014, there will be a congressional hearing into this process,” Dobbs said.
On 01-01-14, Stu Gotz commented....
Shut down these Montanore criminals.  They shot and nearly killed a mine opponent.  They don’t have legal access to the mine.  The public is overwhelmingly opposed.  THe company is nearly broke.  A congressional investigation, indeed.
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