Few places on Earth capture the beauty of God’s creation like Yellowstone National Park. Now U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has approved a 20-year ban on new mines in Yellowstone. “I’m a pro-mining guy. I love hardrock” mining, Zinke says. “But there are places to mine and places not to mine.” For him and many other people, Yellowstone is definitely a “not.”
Zinke approved the ban after two proposed gold mines raised concerns about spoiling the area. The ban doesn’t stop mining on private land or take away already existing mining claims on public lands.
Local business owners and residents joined Zinke, a former Montana congressman, during the announcement. The state’s citizens pushed for the ban after companies began drafting plans for new mines in an area where wolves, elk, bears, and other wildlife live.
Mining companies say the ban area includes historical mining districts that shouldn’t be barred from development. They say mining claims give their holders legal rights to explore for minerals.
John Mears, president of Lucky Minerals, says his company won’t back down. The company plans to explore next year on private lands around Montana’s Emigrant Peak, one of the areas where mining has been banned. Mears says they “carry on” while the government decides whether their existing rights are valid. Either way, Mears says, “We won’t be able to acquire any more ground, but we have enough.”
Mining opponents believe the ban will make it impossible for Lucky Minerals or any other company to develop mines.
In Montana, Democrats and Republicans alike support the mining ban. Both want to be seen as protectors of the natural beauty of Yellowstone.
Meanwhile, the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition hopes to make the ban permanent by passing measures through Congress.
(AP Photo: Emigrant Peak rises above the Paradise Valley and the Yellowstone River near Emigrant, Montana.)