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Missoula, MT – A coalition of conservation groups have filed suit to protect wilderness rivers and streams and threatened bull trout from the dewatering effects of the proposed Montanore Mine, a massive copper and silver mine that would excavate for ore under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwestern Montana. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Missoula.

The Montanore Mine, proposed by Mines Management, Inc. (AMEX: MGN), would mine and process as much as 20,000 tons of ore every day for up to 20 years. The U.S. Forest Service issued a Record of Decision approving the full mine plan on February 12, 2016. But the Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued a separate decision that denied the full mine plan based on its legal directive to protect high quality waters in Montana under the nondegradation provisions in Montana’s Water Quality Act.

“Mining companies have been tinkering with this project for over two decades and they still don’t have it right,” said Clark Fork Coalition executive director Karen Knudsen. “The Forest Service’s approval of mining at the expense of clean, plentiful water and trout habitat isn’t just old thinking, it’s also dangerous and unlawful.”

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Montanore Project, which is based on studies from the mining company’s own consultants, predicts that dewatering the mine tunnels under the Wilderness will deplete flows in twenty-six miles of wilderness rivers and streams that overlie the deposit. The effects are predicted to last for 1,200 to 1,300 years, and would impact the East Fork of the Bull River, Rock Creek, East Fork of Rock Creek, Poorman Creek, Libby Creek and Ramsey Creek.

“The State of Montana has determined that the best available science predicts that Montanore would violate state law designed to protect water quality and fisheries, and it is unlawful for the Forest Service to ignore state law and approve the project anyway,” said Bonnie Gestring ofEarthworks.

Filed by Save Our Cabinets, the Clark Fork Coalition, and Earthworks, the lawsuit challenges the Record of Decision issued by the Forest Service.

The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness is one of the first ten wilderness areas established in 1964 when the Wilderness Act was first created. It protects the headwaters of several major river systems, provides refuge for threatened fish and wildlife, and its streams have been rated among the top 5% purest water in the lower 48 states. According to the agencies’ own documents, all of these critical resources will either be eliminated or severely affected by the Mine.

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