U.S. Sen. Steve Daines visited the Montanore offices in Libby Friday to discuss the progress of the mine project with members of local government and the community.
Along with Daines, State Sen. Mike Cuffe, District 1, and State Rep. Steve Gunderson, District 1, were also in attendance, alongside county government and school officials, as well as members of the community associated with various organizations and boards.
Doug Stiles, manager of Montana Operations for Hecla Mining, gave a short update on progress with the Montanore and Rock Creek mine projects.
Hecla is working with the U.S. Forest Service to update their plan of operations for the Rock Creek mine, he said. “We finally feel like we’re about as close as we’ve ever been on Rock Creek.”
Stiles said that a supplemental environmental impact statement for the Montanore mine is expected shortly.
“That would allow us to begin some of the exploration work at Montanore,” he said.
Both projects have been in permitting “for the better part of 20 years,” Stiles said. Yet, it has only been through the support of community members and and legislators that they have been able to make the progress they have made.
Daines said that the support for Montanore in Lincoln County has been important to the success of moving forward on the project. “You make the fight more effective.”
The people of Lincoln County and of Montana value the environment, he said. “That’s why we live here.”
With modern mining techniques and regulations, “we literally can have it both ways,” Daines said. “We can have environmentally-sound mining operations that protect the environment, and the jobs to go with it. So, the people who live here can work here, and enjoy the place they want to call home.”
Daines said it is critically important, when the environmental impact statement is completed, that community members weigh in.
While having local support does not guarantee a project will get permitted, a project won’t get permitted without that support, Stiles said.
After the meeting, Daines spoke to the econcomic effect of almost 30 years of waiting.
“Imagine if we had those 400 jobs here, let’s say, 15 years ago,” he said. “The impact would be huge in this town.”