US Says No to New Mining Near Yellowstone!

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently announced a 20-year ban on new hardrock mining exploration in the region north of Yellowstone, reassuring campaigners that, for now at least, the site’s pristine vistas will remain unbroken by new mining operations.

The former Montana congressman signed the order at a quiet outdoor ceremony in Montana’s Paradise Valley on October 8. The order extends Obama-era protections banning new claims for gold, silver and other minerals on the 47 square miles of public owned lands across Paradise Valley and Gardiner Basin.

Zinke told crowds that he is a “pro-mining guy” who “loves hardrock”, but said “there are places to mine and places not to mine”.

The order does not prevent the creation of mines on private land, nor does it revoke permits that have already been granted — and there are several in the region. However, because of the ban on using public land, the chance of a large-scale mine is far less likely in the north Yellowstone area.

This is a substantial departure from President Trump’s stated views on mining, as he has been an outspoken proponent for fossil fuels and for stripping regulatory frameworks that may hamper exploration and mining operations.

Local residents led the efforts to oppose two proposed gold mines in the region, and they have said they are pleased at this order from Secretary Zinke.

“My husband has worked in the mining industry for over 27 years and we support the mining industry, but the Paradise Valley which serves as the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park is not the right location for any new mining activity,” The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition’s Tracy Raich told High Country News. “Thank you, Secretary Ryan Zinke, for listening to us and for understanding what’s at stake.”

It’s interesting that many of the local residents seem to echo Raich’s stance: they’re not against mining, they just believe that the Yellowstone area and its surrounding land is not an appropriate place for hardrock mining. This seems to be a position that has been palatable to both sides of the political landscape and united people at the grassroots level.

Underground hardrock mining is the process of excavating ore containing gold, silver, iron and so on. The same techniques can also extract diamonds and rubies. Campaigners have heavily criticized the practice, because ore mining is known to create a number of environmental hazards, such as contaminated river water.

Due to loopholes in the Clean Water Act, mining companies can dam and enclose local waterways to cut off the waste from the wider water course, but by doing so they can create heavily polluted pools of water that are damaging to local wildlife. Congressional inaction on this issue, and on broader issues with mining practices, has been a source of concern among environmentalists for a number of decades now.

However, not everyone is happy with Zinke — though it isn’t that he’s protected this are of Montana from mining. Rather, Zinke seems to be selective about which areas he will protect.

“While Zinke rushes to open up places like Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and the Boundary Waters to copper, uranium, and coal mining, only Montana’s natural treasures get the protection they deserve,” Aaron Weiss, media director for the conservation advocacy group Center for Western Priorities, said in a press release.

The group has been particularly vocal on opposing what they say is Zinke’s penchant for choosing certain causes and touting them as good environmental policy while pushing a broader agenda that overtly threatens the environment. “It’s now clear Ryan Zinke will only do the right thing when his political future is on the line.”

Nevertheless, campaigners are hoping to build on this victory and push for a ban that extends not just 20 years, but permanently.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

48 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner16 days ago

Don't be fooled by Zinke. He's only doing this not to piss off his constiutents to keep his position. Zinke is an incredibly vicious, psychotic and dangerous environment destroyer. Along with Scott Pruitt, and his replacement Wheeler, and and a gang of Trump psychos in the Congress, Zinke is the worst of the worst.

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Lorraine A

There has to some where than nature can live and that has not had a mine, oil well, etc on it!! Soon this earth will be one big hole. What happens when we have extracted every mineral on the planet and are left with a dust bowl???

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Izorie Irvin
Izorie Irvin21 days ago

Wonderful!!!!!!!!!, I believe that if mankind would leave Special Places and Special things that Jehovah put in Place too be 4 Ever, the Earth would be in Greater Harmony and things would be much smoother for every being.....

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer21 days ago

Wonderful!!!

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Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga21 days ago

thx

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Michael F

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Shirley S
Shirley S22 days ago

This move gives kudos to Zinke's "MASTER" to help his re-election.

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hELEN h
hELEN h22 days ago

tyfs

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Sherri S
Sherri S22 days ago

Good. Let's hope it stays "mine free" forever.

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Marija M
Marija M22 days ago

Good news...but what is behind?

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