The U.S. moved Monday to block gold mining outside of Yellowstone National Park, and the Obama Administration is seeking to keep industry out of natural and environmentally sensitive areas.
Mining claims on 30,370 acres to the north of Yellowstone would be prohibited for at least two years. A long-term ban is being considered, according to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on a visit to Montana’s Paradise Valley, according to The Missoulian. Last week interior officials blocked new oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, and cancelled 25 oil and gas leases in west Colorado, as well as 15 in northwestern Montana.
The moves to undermine new mining claims took place after gold exploration proposals north of Yellowstone were opposed by business owners, environmentalists and Montana officials. Mining could destroy an economy driven by tourism and the outdoors, claim opponents, by damaging the environment.
Ms. Jewell hiked through the landscape around one now banned mining site. She hopes a temporary ban discourages the projects’ sponsors from future mining activity in the region, and helps to protect Yellowstone and Custer-Gallatin National Forest. The two-year prohibition is not the end of the mining proposals, which are on private lands. But government officials believe they have dealt the projects a blow.
“This is right on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, one of the most amazing places in the world,” Jewell said. “It needs to be part of a larger ecosystem and this forest is part of that ecosystem. Mining will damage that. It will damage the ability of the animals to migrate. It will impact potentially the watershed. It could impact the geothermal features.”
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has received applications from Lucky Minerals, a Canadian exploration firm, to search for gold and other minerals in the state. Spokane, Washington’s Crevice Mining Group wants to explore for gold near Jardine, just north of Yellowstone.
Lucky Minerals Vice President Shaun Dykes was “disgusted” by the announcement. He claimed to receive no advance warning. “They’re sending a huge message to mining and exploration (companies), saying you’re not welcome in Montana,” Dykes said in a telephone interview.
Mr Dykes believes Ms Jewell wanted to “ram it through before Trump takes office” and said the reserve where his company is planning on mining contains 10 million tons of gold. Dykes said they would go to court if their operations are stopped. Crevice Mining Group managing director believed his company’s project would still, ultimately, go through.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester asked the administration to stop mining in the area. The Montana Democrat plans to introduce legislation next Congress prohibit the new mining claims altogether. The ban can extend 20 years, as is.
The Department of Interior shared the news over social media.
— US Department of the Interior (@Interior) November 21, 2016
“This is the right action to take on behalf of current and future generations,” Jewell said in a statement. The settlement would protect the area’s “rich cultural and natural resources and recognizes the irreparable impacts that oil and gas development would have on them.”