MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that a proposed silver and copper mine must seek new permission from the state to continue pursuing a mineral deposit near Libby.
The four-member majority led by Justice Ingrid Gustafson released the decision Tuesday saying the Montanore project on the border of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness could not rely on a 30-year-old water quality permit granted to a bankrupt company, the Missoulian reported.
Gustafson said the Department of Environmental Quality’s use of an expired 1992 order was unlawful and rejected because “Montana courts do not defer to incorrect or unlawful agency decisions.”
Justice Jim Rice dissented, arguing he thought the permit question wasn’t discussed enough to warrant overturning 14 years of current work on the mine and its permits.
Mine owners Hecla Mining Co. and its subsidiary Montanore Minerals Corp. must now seek a new review and permit application if they wish to pursue the project.
Noranda Minerals Inc. started the Montanore mine in 1989 and got a water pollution permit from the state in 1992. However, it stopped working on the project in 1991 and a state court found in 1993 that Noranda had violated the Montana Clean Water Act, fined it and ordered it to seek new permits.