May 30, 2017 saw the District Court in Missoula rule in line of conservation groups to put a hold on the proposed Hecla Mines in Sanders and Lincoln Counties.
Now a community delegation group representing the Sanders and Lincoln Counties have not taken no for an answer when it comes to getting the ruling over-turned. Recent meetings in Washington D.C. saw the NW Montana Community Delegation representatives meet with officials in the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, US Fish & Wildlife, US Forest Service and our Federal delegation agencies.
“Our message was one of urgency in getting personnel in place within the USFS and USF&W in order to complete the work needed to respond to Judge Molloy’s rulings concerning the Rock Creek Mine and the Montanore Mine,” said Diane Rewerts who is the W.F. Morrison Elementary Principal.
Both Sanders and Lincoln Counties have close to 80 percent Federal Land ownership, hence why the Federal Agencies are seen as our [community delegation] partners. This partnership is vital to trying to move projects through the planning and approval stages for both Rock Creek and Montanore Mines.
It is no secret to locals that should the mines (Rock Creek and Montanore) proceed to open and produce product that the employment of local miners will see benefits trickle throughout the county.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both counties are sitting in the highest brackets within the state for unemployment.
This relates as the proposed mining projects represent a possible ‘tax base’ for both counties. The taxes would help support the schools, as it will help boost those kids to take their education further. Even school leavers would have the opportunity for solid, stable work within the county they wish to live in.
It was explained by Bruce Vincent, President of Environomics in Libby; that by opening and running each mine it will have a positive impact to both counties. The benefits alone to the respective economic status can begin to turn each of the communities around confidently and effectively.
Sanders County Commissioner Carol Brooker said,”We also stressed that the vast majority of citizens in our area believe that it is of critical importance to protect the environment we love and over 80% of the public supports both mining projects if they are done right.”
“We believe Hecla is the right partner to operate these mines and protect our environment,” she added.
Hecla Mining Company prides themselves on not only their ability to mine precious metals, but also their commitment to community development and of course their environmental responsibilities.
With continued support of Hecla Mining the delegation group hit the nations capitol to continue efforts in expediting the already arduous 20 plus years invested in the permitting process.
Lincoln County Commissioner Jerry Bennett said, “Our communities are partners with the managing Federal agencies and Hecla. We went to DC to drive home the need to staff those agencies so their work can be accomplished and the projects can move forward in months and not years.”
“The ‘ask’ of the group was simple; our partners in the US Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service need staffing in order to finish the work on these two projects so that permits can be granted to allow the evaluation phase of each project to move forward,” said Vincent (Pres. of Environomics)
He continued to point out that agency leaders in DC assured the group that they would work to reassure that proper staffing was in place so that the work can be completed in a timely manner.
The next step in the process will be the actual staffing placements at the Kootenai Forest Supervisors office. The adding of staff at the US Fish & Wildlife Services office is also part of that next step. It is vital to get staff put in place to complete necessary permitting work on both Rock Creek and Montanore Mines.
Koontenai National Forest is an important aspect of these processes and is vital to being able to approve the mining proposals and ultimately give such proposals permits to operate.
“The reception we received at each of our agency meetings was very positive. When outlined of the human resources needed to the agencies we were given assurances that meeting those staffing needs can and would be accomplished,” Vincent said.
“Importantly, USFS Chief Tom Tidwell indicated that he would prioritize the projects in Washington just as the Kootenai has prioritized them in NW Montana,” he added.
Tina Oliphant, Executive Director of the Kootenai River Development Council weighed in saying, “While the Chief expressed there were issues to resolve in completing these tasks, he said that he would get as creative as need be to move appropriate resources to the Kootenai and do so quickly.”
“Chief Tidwell assigned tasks of moving forward to his staff on the spot and we were told the following day in subsequent meetings that work was already underway,” said Bennett.