Montana - Proposed Emigrant Gulch Mine

State: Montana
Region: Greater Yellowstone

In 2016 the Department of the Interior announced a two-year ban on new mining claims on approximately 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land near Yellowstone National Park's northern entrance. Since that time, Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Greg Gianforte have both championed legislation to create permanent bans in the area. And earlier this year, the Forest Service recommended a 20-year ban on mining in the area.

The Canadian mining company, Lucky Minerals Inc. had proposed a mineral exploration project in Emigrant Gulch in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. The project would have been located approximately 7 miles southeast of Emigrant, Montana, near Yellowstone National Park and the historic Chico Hot Springs. The company planned to drill 12 exploration wells on federal land and 23 drill sites on private land on the western flank of Emigrant Peak, for copper, gold, silver or molybedenum. Ultimately, the company hoped to develop an open pit mine across multiple drainages covering 2,560 acres in Emigrant Gulch.

The area provides important habitat for grizzly bears and is a popular year-round recreation area. Emigrant Creek flows through Emigrant Gulch and is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. The project drew major concern from the public about the project’s impacts to endangered species, roadless area incursions, water quality threats and impacts to recreation and the local economy it supports.

A 2018 court ruling recognized that exploratory drilling is the leading edge of a much larger threat to these sensitive lands in Yellowstone's gateway - which is a victory for conservationists, but the mining company could still insist on proceeding with gold exploration this summer while regulators conduct a new environmental analysis and the agency considers implementing the 20-year ban.