DEQ greenlights drilling near Yellowstone

DEQ greenlights drilling near Yellowstone

Source: NBC Montana
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Judith Retana

BOZEMAN, Mont. – The Department of Environmental Quality announced Wednesday it is giving the green light for mineral exploration outside Yellowstone National Park. The company, Lucky Minerals, first submitted an application for drilling in 2015.

The application says the company would obtain core samples from up to 46 drill holes on 23 drill pads. Lucky Minerals would restrict their project to an area 12 miles southeast of Emigrant in the Absaroka Mountains. It would take place on existing roads on private land.

Jeni Flatow, the public information officer with DEQ, tells NBC Montana they received more than 6,000 comments about the application. She says comments received were used to do an environmental assessment in the area, which looked at the impacts on wildlife habitat, noise and water.

State officials said the company had agreed to extensive water quality and wildlife monitoring plans.

While Lucky Minerals’ proposal is on private land, officials say it might not be economically viable without mining on adjacent public lands.

Conservationists have expressed opposition to the drilling. A spokesperson with Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition told NBC Montana they worry the project may one day expand onto public land. They tell us they respect the rights of private land owners but hope the project will stay on private land in the years ahead.

Local residents are concerned mining could harm the local tourism industry and pollute the nearby Yellowstone River.

The DEQ is confident in its decision, saying officials took the public’s concerns seriously.

Legislation proposed by Sen. Jon Tester would bar future mining claims on 30,000 acres of public lands outside Yellowstone.

This isn’t a done deal yet. Flatow says there are a few more steps before final approval. That includes obtaining a bond in anticipation of reclamation costs.