Clark Fork Coalition
Protecting and restoring the Clark Fork watershed since 1985

Clark Fork Named One of America's Most Endangered Rivers.

Sign the Petition
Our Work

Cabinet Mountain Mines and Bad Actors

The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness provides refuge for native fish and wildlife and its streams flow with some of the purest waters in the lower 48. It also contains one of the largest copper/silver deposits in the world. We work with our partners Earthworks, Earthjustice, Rock Creek Alliance, and Montana Environmental Information Center to ensure proposed mines don’t put trout-filled waters at risk.

Rock Creek Mine:

After 35 years of bad permit decisions and subsequent lawsuits, Hecla Mining Co. notified the U.S. Forest Service that it is withdrawing its plans to pursue their Rock Creek Mine. Rock Creek Mine would have tunneled for miles underneath wilderness peaks, alpine lakes, and trout-filled streams to access one of the largest copper/silver deposits in the world. The mine’s wastewater discharge would have poured into the Lower Clark Fork River just 30 miles upriver from Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille. Our advocacy work paid off, and this mine is no longer threatening the watershed.

Montanore Mine:

The proposed Montanore Mine in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness would tunnel beneath pristine forests and streams to access a large silver and copper deposit. One impact of this massive operation will be partial or complete de-watering of vital bull trout habitat on three wilderness streams. The Kootenai National Forest recently approved the full mine – even though its impacts on mountain streams violates Montana’s water laws.

On April 1, 2016 CFC and a coalition of conservation groups filed suit to protect wilderness rivers and streams and threatened bull trout from the dewatering effects of the proposed Montanore Mine.

On May 30, 2017 a federal judge overturned government agency approvals for the proposed Montanore Mine in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, which would dewater pristine trout streams and industrialize some of the last remaining grizzly bear habitat of northwest Montana. While the mine is located in the Kootenai watershed, dewatering of wilderness streams and bull trout habitat would occur across the divide in creeks that drain to the Clark Fork.

Bad Actor Law:

Montana’s “Bad Actor” law requires polluters clean up past contamination and pay back the state before they can profit from Montana’s riches again. This common sense, bipartisan law had broad support from the mining industry.

However, the law is currently being tested. When mining company Pegasus Gold declared bankruptcy, it left Montanans to clean up huge mining messes that cost tens of millions of dollars to treat, continue to spoil our waters today, and will require expensive treatment forever. Now, former Pegasus executive Phillips Baker wants to mine in Montana again, this time as CEO of Hecla Mining, the company behind the proposed Cabinet Mountain mines.

In March 2018, Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) took action to enforce this common sense law, informing Hecla that, under Baker’s leadership, it cannot mine here until it complies with the statute. Hecla and its subsidiaries sued. DEQ is prepared to defend the state’s environmental laws and filed a counterclaim reiterating to Hecla that it cannot mine in Montana until it either pays back the state or parts ways with Baker. CFC and our partners have intervened in the case.

What We're Doing
Sub Basin(s)