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Defending Yellowstone National Park from Industrial Gold Mining

The front lawn of the world famous, locally-owned, Chico Hot Springs Resort. Emigrant Peak rises in background.

The front lawn of the world famous, locally-owned, Chico Hot Springs Resort. Emigrant Peak rises in background.

Photo courtesy of William Campbell

What’s at Stake

If the mineral exploration project goes forward, it will introduce industrial activity in a remote landscape that includes Yellowstone River tributaries and is in the heart of the Paradise Valley.

Overview

Groups opposed to industrial gold mining north of Yellowstone National Park filed a lawsuit on September 22, 2017, challenging the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s approval of extensive mineral exploration in Emigrant Gulch near Park County’s Paradise Valley.  The exploration is proposed by Lucky Minerals, a Canadian company whose intention is to develop “a multi-million ounce gold” mine.  The lawsuit was filed by Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Park County Environmental Council, represented by Earthjustice.

Location map of Yellowstone National Park.
If the mineral exploration project goes forward, it will introduce industrial activity in a remote landscape that includes Yellowstone River tributaries and is in the heart of the Paradise Valley.

If the mineral exploration project goes forward, it will introduce industrial activity in a remote landscape that includes Yellowstone River tributaries and is in the heart of the Paradise Valley.  The project is the first step in Lucky’s plans to develop large-scale gold mining that will threaten Park County’s tourism economy, which depends on clean water and access to the County’s spectacular public lands, the groups say.  On July 26, 2017, DEQ approved the exploratory drilling—which would occur 24 hours each day between July 15 and October 15 for two consecutive years—after finding that exploratory drilling would not cause any significant environmental harm.  

Lucky’s exploration project is planned on private mining claims in the midst of public lands in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.  Reflecting outspoken public opposition to gold mining in this area from local businesses and residents, on November 21, 2016, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior announced a proposal to withdraw 30,000 acres of land in Paradise Valley—including National Forest System lands adjacent to Lucky’s proposed project—from mineral exploration and development.  The proposal had the immediate effect of preventing mining activity, subject to valid existing rights, for two years.  If finalized, the withdrawal will prevent mining activity on these lands for as many as 20 years.

At the time of the lawsuit's filing, the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act was pending in the U.S. Senate, which if signed into law would make these protections permanent.  However, the public lands withdrawal does not prevent Lucky’s mineral exploration on adjacent private property.

Case ID

3017

Case Updates

May 29, 2018 | Legal Document

Lucky Minerals Emigrant Gulch License Decision

This case involves the Plaintiff's challenge of the decision made by Defendant Department of Environmental Quality to grant Defendant Lucky Minerals, Inc. an exploration license in the Emigrant gulch area of the Absaroka Mountains. 

September 22, 2017 | Legal Document

Yellowstone Gateway Mining MEPA Challenge

This case challenges state approval for a plan by Canadian-based Lucky Minerals (“Lucky”) to explore for gold and other minerals in Emigrant Gulch above Montana’s iconic Paradise Valley, approximately 30 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Lucky’s project aims to pave the way for a large-scale gold mine in this sensitive and scenic area. More than 300 Park County, Montana businesses and thousands of individuals have objected to the project on grounds that it would industrialize a remote area that is home to grizzly bears, wolverines, and other wildlife, and would threaten to dismantle Park County’s tourism economy that depends on clean water and pristine views. However, on July 26, 2017, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) determined that the exploratory drilling—which would occur 24 hours each day between July 15 and October 15 for two consecutive years—would not cause any significant environmental impacts and approved the project.