The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is reopening the public comment period on a proposed copper-silver mine near Libby.
The state agency is accepting comments through May 18 on the renewal of the existing discharge permit for the Montanore Project, a proposed mine underneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
Environmentalists are challenging U.S. Forest Service approval of the $500 million copper and silver mine, citing concerns from state officials that it could drain surrounding waterways and potentially harm a species of trout protected under federal law.
The lawsuit was filed two weeks ago in U.S. District Court in Missoula. Sponsor Mines Management Inc. of Spokane, Washington, has been seeking a mining permit since 2004.
This latest draft permit that is open to comment is for the discharge of treated adit water at three existing outfalls and for the discharge of storm water from four new stormwater-only outfalls. The draft permit updates the effluent limits at the existing outfalls and establishes effluent limits for the new outfalls. It also requires the facility to develop and maintain a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan that includes establishing Best Management Practices to further control or eliminate discharges of storm water. Lastly, the draft permit requires monitoring and reporting of the effluent discharges, the storm water discharges and the ambient upstream conditions in Libby Creek.
“We received substantial comments on the draft permit during the public comment period in October 2015. In response to comments DEQ is making changes to the draft MPDES permit and reopening the comment period,” said DEQ Deputy Director George Mathieus.
A draft wastewater discharge permit, fact sheet, and the department’s tentative determination are available on the DEQ website and at the DEQ Metcalf Building in Helena.
DEQ will accept public comments any time before the close of business on May 18. Comments should be sent to DEQ Water Protection Bureau, PO Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620 or by email to DEQWPBPublicComments@mt.gov.
The DEQ will respond to all substantive comments and issue a final decision as soon as possible thereafter.
DEQ’s Record of Decision, the Joint Final Environmental Impact Statement, and other documents for the Montanore Project are available online.