Yellowstone is worth far more than gold. But two mining proposals near America's first national park threaten this world-famous landscape and the economy that depends on it.
Standing beneath the famous Roosevelt Arch entrance to Yellowstone, our first national park, one can gaze out across meadows filled with herds of bison, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep. In one direction looms the soaring snowcapped Electric Peak. To the other, the Yellowstone River meanders along the park’s border beneath quiet hillsides.
Now, instead of this idyllic view, imagine an industrial-scale gold mine with heavy equipment and mining trucks lumbering down dirt roads. It’s hard to picture, but two large-scale gold mining projects are being considered at Yellowstone’s doorstep.
Yellowstone is worth far more than gold. But foreign mining companies have proposed building two gold mines in the Paradise Valley, the main year-round gateway to Yellowstone National Park. If allowed to proceed, one of the proposed mines would be built within eyesight of the famous Roosevelt Arch. The other is proposed just north of the park, above the world-famous Chico Hot Springs. The companies’ aggressive exploration plans could mean drilling dozens of test holes as early as this summer.
Unless policymakers act, one of America’s most cherished landscapes could be at risk. These industrial-scale operations on the border of the park could have disastrous consequences on the environment, the local businesses that depend on the area’s strong tourist economy, and the park experience that draws visitors from across the globe. With mining comes potential pollution affecting the Yellowstone River, harm to wildlife, industrialization and traffic, to name just a few of the threats.
In October 2016, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality released a draft environmental assessment of Lucky Minerals’ proposed Emigrant Mine, one of the two projects in question. The environmental review only covers private land, which equates to about 4% of the 2,500-acre proposed mine, and does not include public land, which would make up the remainder of the project site. The state of Montana is currently reviewing the proposal, which, if approved, would grant the mining company an alarming toehold in the region for future exploratory drilling.
NPCA supports efforts led by the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition and the local community to oppose these two proposed mines.
Some of the small business owners in the communities surrounding Yellowstone speak out against the proposed mining operations in this video by the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coaltion.
Thanks in part to national park advocates and the local community speaking up for Yellowstone, we have made progress toward preventing these mines. In the fall of 2016, the U.S Departments of Interior and Agriculture responded to our call and announced a two-year moratorium on gold exploration and mining on more than 30,000 acres of threatened public lands. This time-out ensures that no new mining activity takes place on these public lands as we work to secure long-term protection.
The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition is urging Congress to pass legislation that permanently protects the gateway to Yellowstone from gold mining. The coalition is also urging the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to withdraw these public lands from mining for 20 years to ensure gold mining does not harm this famed landscape in the short term.
Large open-pit gold mines simply don’t belong on the border of America’s first national park. There is too much at stake for the land, the water, the wildlife, the millions of visitors and the local economy to let these plans become a reality.
Nov. 21, 2016: Two-year pause on new gold mine exploration on more than 30,000 acres of public lands near Yellowstone
The withdrawal proposal is a major step towards addressing the concerns raised by the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition (including NPCA), as well as local and national conservation organizations.
30,000 Spoke Out Against Mines
NPCA supporters sent messages to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and USDA Secretary Vilsack asking them to protect Yellowstone from two adjacent gold mining proposals.
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