Montanore impact statement open for comment

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The comment period for the draft environmental impact statement for the Montanore Project is open through Thursday, Aug. 8, and community members who wish to give their opinion of the project are now able to share their views.

There is also a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kootenai National Forest Supervisor’s Office on Highway 2 in Libby.

The impact statement is the next step for Montanore Minerals Corporation — a subsidiary of Hecla Minerals Corporation — before they can begin the evaluation phase.

Doug Stiles, manager of Montana Operations for Hecla Mining, said that the evaluation phase will involve taking samples from both the ore body and the proposed tailings site in order to determine the feasibility of the project. It will also help them to determine what measures will need to be taken to protect the environment if the mine is approved.

The evaluation phase has been approved by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Stiles said. They are only waiting on this approval from the U.S. Forest Service before they can begin the evaluation phase.

“What we’re proposing is to just complete the evaluation project, which is, essentially, no new disturbance at the Libby adit site,” Stiles said.

Located about 45 minutes outside of Libby heading east on Highway 2, Stiles said that the adit site — where the mine entrance will be — is on land owned by Hecla.

Most of the infrastructure is already in place, Stiles said.

The evaluation phase at the adit site would involve extending the current about 14,000-foot adit — or tunnel — another 4,000 feet above the ore body, he said. Once that is done, they will drill down into the ore body, “to collect information on mineralization, geotechnical engineering properties of the rock for design purposes, and hydrogeologic information — so, groundwater and things like that.”

Most of the work will occur either underground or on the existing site where disturbance has already taken place, he said.

Additionally, the evaluation phase would include drilling beneath the surface of the proposed area for holding the tailings from the proposed mine, he said. “There’s limited data as to what the subsurface looks like there.”

So, if the evaluation phase is approved, they will extract samples from the ground to test for suitability, he said. “Most of that work will occur along existing roads that have been closed.”

Stiles estimated that the work for the evaluation phase would take two-to-three years, but up to five years. During that time, he estimated between $30 million and $40 million would be invested into the project by Hecla.

Stiles also estimated between 40 and 50 total jobs would be created during the evaluation phase. Around 35 would be created directly by the project, and the rest indirectly.

The comment period for the Forest Service’s environmental impact statement is open through Thursday, Aug. 8. A link to the draft statement and instruction on how to comment can be found at http://miningmontana.com.

Comments by mail can be submitted to Craig Towery, Kootenai National Forest, 31374 U.S. 2 West, Libby, Montana 59923, or can be taken to the KNF offices at that address between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Comments can also be emailed to SM.FS.r1monteval@usda.gov with “Montanore Evaluation Project” in the subject line, or faxed to (406) 296-6211.

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