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CRG files suit over Troy Mine reclamation plan

| January 9, 2007 11:00 PM

An environmental group filed suit Monday in Helena District Court against the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Revett Minerals, alleging failure to enforce and implement provisions of the Metal Mine Reclamation Act for the Troy Mine.

According to Cabinet Resource Group, DEQ has failed its regulatory responsibilities by allowing the mine to operate with an outdated reclamation plan. The suit contends that for more than seven years, DEQ has known and informed the mine's owners and operators - formerly Asarco and now Revett Minerals - of inadequacies in the reclamation plan. CRG is seeking a judgment declaring the reclamation plan invalid and causing the mine's permit to be suspended or revoked.

The Troy copper and silver mine began operation in 1978 under Asarco's ownership. The mine closed in 1993 due to low metal prices and was sold to Revett's predecessor, Sterling Mining Co., in 1999. The mine was re-opened by Revett in 2004.

According to the suit, DEQ informed Asarco in October 1999 that the $2.76 million reclamation bond was inaqequate and needed to be increased to more than $10 million. DEQ also asked Asarco to submit a revised reclamation plan. Asarco posted an interim bond of $10.5 million, which DEQ considered a step toward the development of a final reclamation plan.

The CRG suit refers to several letters from DEQ to Asarco from 2000 to 2003 seeking a final reclamation plan. According to CRG, Revett subsidiary Genesis opened the mine after entering into an agreement under which it would conduct operations on Asarco's behalf while Asarco maintained its permit.

In 2005, DEQ proposed increasing the reclamation bond to $18 million. The bond was later adjusted to $12.95 million, and in early 2006 DEQ reported that it was ready to start preparation of an environmental impact statement for the revised reclamation plan it had received from Genesis, the suit contends.

"More than nine months later, however, the EIS process has not begun, and Revett/Genesis is refusing to pay the fee required to begin the process," CRG argues.

According to CRG, ongoing operation of the mine is causing pollution of ground water and Lake Creek.