While Crown Butte Mining Inc. already owns patented land within the Gallatin National Forest, it needs additional land for its mill and waste rock. That need has set into motion the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires study of environmental and social impacts of the operation.
The mining company is footing the bill
for the environmental impact statement - $1.5 million so far -
while both the Forest Service and Montana's Department of
Environmental Quality are preparing what will probably become a
750-page document. State staffer Mike Da Silva says Yellowstone
Park's 100 pages of comments will be incorporated into the
Park Superintendent Michael Finley, however,
worries that the EIS may sacrifice quality for "an artificial
deadline. We have very few options outside public education and
understanding and the political process," he
That process appears to be working for him
at the moment.
The Wyoming Legislature recently
passed a law bringing Crown Butte under the jurisdiction of the
state's Industrial Siting Act, if the firm decides to abandon the
controversial high-altitude impoundment and truck its wastes to
Wyoming. And the U.S. House of Representatives' Forests and Lands
Subcommittee will hold hearings on a bill that would block the mine
by creating a national recreation area in the New World Mining
On the other hand, the area's
congressional delegations are mostly hedging their bets. Montana
Sen. Conrad Burns is waiting for the draft EIS to emerge this June
"and thinks others should not scuttle the process," according to
Matt Raymond, his press secretary. Kurt Rush, a staffer for Montana
Sen. Max Baucus, says the senator "is skeptical of the ability of
the company or the Forest Service and the state to meet what must
be a high threshold of environmental quality."
In other congressional action, a proposal to
cancel EPA veto power over projects like Crown Butte's tailings
impoundment - which affects a wetland - has appeared at least twice
since November as a rider to budget bills.
battle is far from over.
For information about
the Crown Butte Mine EIS, write New World Project Environmental
Impact Statement, Gallatin National Forest, Box 1170, Bozeman, MT
Mary Ann Chambers in Fort
Collins, Colo., contributed to this