YELLOWSTONE GATEWAY MINES – Emigrant Mine
Mining in the Heart of Paradise Valley
In the summer of 2015 we learned that a Canadian mining company, Lucky Minerals Inc., proposed to “aggressively explore” for gold in Emigrant Gulch on the flanks of Emigrant Peak. Emigrant Peak is located in Park County Montana, and is just 17 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Ultimately, the company hopes to develop “a multi-million ounce gold resource” across three drainages on over 2,500 acres in the Emigrant Gulch area.
The first phase of the exploratory drilling involved 12 drill sites on public, federal Forest Service land, and 23 drill sites on private land on the western flank of Emigrant Peak. Lucky Minerals sought a “categorical exclusion” which would have allowed the company to explore for minerals such as gold, copper, silver and molybdenum without environmental review under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Park County residents, business owners, elected officials, the National Park Service and local organizations responded in force, submitting over 6,200 comments to local agencies. These comments did not support mining in the Gateway to Yellowstone, and demanded that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) conduct the highest level of environmental analysis to protect water resources, wildlife, the local economy and quality of life in Park County.
In December of 2015, after learning that the USFS and DEQ would require an environmental assessment in part due to community concerns, Lucky Minerals Inc. withdrew its exploratory drilling application for public lands in Emigrant Gulch. The withdrawal of the application was welcomed news; however, the threat of development remains. While Lucky’s initial exploration plans for public land are currently on hold, Lucky still maintains public land claims and could apply to explore or develop those claims at any time.
In October of 2016, DEQ released its Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of Lucky Minerals’ plans to explore for gold in Emigrant Gulch yesterday. DEQ’s environmental assessment recognizes potentially significant impacts of Lucky’s proposal on the pristine waters and intact wild lands that are vital to our local businesses and economy. DEQ ultimately concluded, however, that there would be no significant impacts from Lucky Minerals’ operation.
Community members remain concerned that mineral exploration on patented mining claims could still lead to a mine in Emigrant Gulch. In fact, it may be a faster process requiring less environmental review. By withdrawing its application on public lands, Lucky Minerals is not walking away, but instead is sidestepping the public process and moving forward with less public scrutiny.
PCEC and our partners are working to seek a long-term, made-in-Montana solution – a law that would outline a small-scale mineral withdrawal that would permanently protect our public lands from mining. The law would not impact private property rights and would be similar to the recent bipartisan North Fork Watershed Protection Act, supported by both US Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines. But legislation takes time, which is why we are also asking the federal government for administrative pause buttons, to allow time for a Montana-made solution to flourish.
The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition asked the US Forest Service to initiate a mineral withdrawal as soon as possible to ensure that exploration does not occur while Congress considers legislation to protect these economically and ecologically critical lands near Yellowstone National Park. Pressing this administration pause button would not affect any private patented claims nor verified existing rights on public land.
Senator Jon Tester has asked high level cabinet officials to support our community and the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition’s request for mineral withdrawal. And if you have a minute to call Senator Tester’s office to thank him, that would mean a lot! 406-586-4540.
People come from all over the world to visit Park County for its natural beauty, abundance of wildlife, blue-ribbon trout fisheries and Yellowstone National Park. The long term health and economic prosperity of this region depends on an intact ecosystem to support agriculture, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, recreation and tourism.
Our future is not worth gambling with Lucky Minerals.
The Yellowstone Ecosystem is more valuable than gold.
Areas of Concern
- Water quality impacts from spills or acid mine drainage
- Fragmentation and incursion in key wildlife habitat for endangered species
- Roadless area incursions
- Reduce economic resiliency in a tourism-driven area
- Increased traffic, disturbance to 115-year old historic Chico Hot Springs Resort
- Reduced access to public lands
- Private property concerns and reduced property values
What Park County is saying:
“I have one hot water source and one cold. If I lose either one, I will be out of business”
“Lucky Minerals has not been a good neighbor. They have never bothered to inform the [Park County] Commission about how they plan to access their mining claims.”
“I believe in private property rights, but Lucky Minerals would infringe on the property rights and economic prosperity of others.”
“The message is pretty pointed; we don’t want Lucky Minerals developing a mine in Emigrant Gulch in Paradise Valley”
“We are working to build a strong and resilient economy in Park County. The prospect of large scale mining in an area that’s so important from a natural resource and recreation perspective puts at risk the quality of life that attracts so many people to visit or to relocate their homes and businesses here.”
“Lucky Minerals has not demonstrated that it wants to work with the local community, and instead is pursuing the fastest and easiest path to drilling in our backyard. Please join us in urging the DEQ to consider the highest level of environmental review on Lucky’s proposal. If Lucky Minerals is certain there will be no impacts, it shouldn’t hesitate to prepare an environmental impact statement for mineral exploration on patented claims.”
“This project, if allowed to proceed un-scrutinized, has the potential to destroy the life blood of Park County-an ecosystem that supports ranching, fishing and hunting, as well as, all aspects of the tourism/recreation industry that the community of Gardiner depends on for its livelihood.”