Senate Panel Supports Mine Study Funding

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – A U.S. Senate panel Tuesday approved nearly $1.3 million for collection of environmental data in the area where a Canadian company wants to develop a coal mine, just north of Glacier National Park.

Opponents of the mine want the environmental information for a baseline against which to gauge how the Cline Mining Corp. project may affect natural resources in the Flathead River region, which spans the Montana-British Columbia border.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced the allocation by a subcommittee working on appropriations for the Interior Department. Full committee action is likely Thursday, his staff said.

Baucus said data would be gathered by the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station; the UM forestry school; the Flathead Basin Commission; and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“We need this baseline data to continue to make the case that mining and other activity in (British Columbia) would have devastating consequences downstream in Montana,” Baucus said.

Cline maintains the mine could be developed in a manner sensitive to the environment. British Columbia officials have said the project would have to comply with strict standards imposed by the province.

Cline has proposed mining millions of tons of coal, during a 20-year span, from deposits under Foisey Creek. It flows into the North Fork of the Flathead River, which flows across the international boundary.

Baucus said the baseline environmental information also could be used against British Petroleum’s proposed coal-bed methane work in the Foisey Creek area.

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