HARLEM, Mont. – Faced with the prospect of more mining in an area that has experienced health and environmental impacts from mining, the Fort Belknap Indian Community (FBIC) filed suit in the Montana District Court in Phillips County Thursday. The suit was filed to challenge the State of Montana’s approval of a plan for gold exploration at the former Zortman-Landusky mine complex.
According to a release, the lawsuit challenges the legality of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) decision allowing Blue Arc, LLC, to disturb the still-contaminated site by removing 1,000 tons of rock for analysis. It lists DEQ’s failure to adhere to several legal requirements in violation of state law, including bypassing consultation with the Fort Belknap Tribes and conducting an incomplete environmental evaluation before approving the plan. Significantly, the suit details how DEQ, allegedly, inadequately disclosed the potential harm the gold mining exploration plan would have on the area’s water and other natural resources.
The complaint, filed by the tribes, Earthworks and the Montana Environmental Information Center, asks the court to invalidate the plan.
“To this day, the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes continue to experience devastating health and environmental consequences from past mining,” FBIC President Andrew Werk, Jr. said. “By giving the green light to Zortman exploration without proper tribal consultation and adequate analysis of environmental impact, DEQ has shown shocking indifference to the enormous potential for further water contamination, harm to tribal members and permanent contamination of tribal lands. It’s as if we have learned nothing from the past.”