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Court Bulldozes Mining Operation in Montana

On March 29, 2010, a federal judge rejected the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a massive industrial mining operation in northwest Montana, marking a major victory for bull trout, grizzly bears and local citizens.

The Rock Creek Mine, set to be located adjacent to, and literally underneath, the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area, would have removed 10,000 tons of copper and silver ore every day for 35 years, disrupting more than 7,000 acres of habitat that houses a precious few grizzly bears. The mine also threatened to destroy the bull trout population in Rock Creek and would have poured up to 3 million gallons of waste water each day into the Clark Fork River.

Earthjustice, working with lawyers from the Western Mining Action Project on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups, successfully argued that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Forest Service Organic Act in approving the Rock Creek Mine. This is the third time that lawsuits by members of the public have succeeded in halting federal agency approvals for the mining project.

"This mine would smother important bull trout spawning grounds under tons of sediment and disrupt thousands of acres of habitat for the region's tiny grizzly bear population, all while threatening to drain the water out of lakes in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness," said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. "The federal permit blocked today was issued by the Bush administration and we hope the Obama administration will have a different view about undermining a federal wilderness area."