By Amy Beth Hanson ASSOCIATED PRESS
HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court has removed a big obstacle for a mining company seeking to explore a silver and copper deposit potentially worth billions of dollars under the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness in northwestern Montana.
Exploration of that deposit has been delayed in part by a long-running dispute over whether Mines Management Inc. can access it by using a tunnel that goes under late Arnold Bakie’s nearby mining claims. Bakie and an investment group that included former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer had alleged Mines Management’s use of the tunnel through the claims was trespassing.
In a 5-0 decision Nov. 26, the justices ruled that Bakie’s mining claims weren’t valid because they contained no valuable minerals.
Now Mines Management is working with the U.S. Forest Service on an environmental analysis of its planned exploration to assess the project’s feasibility, which seeks to mine a multibillion-dollar silver and copper deposit. The analysis will assess the project’s potential effects on the environment and the plants and animals in the area.