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Proposed mine tries to find support

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| April 14, 2009 12:00 AM

The public comment period for the proposed Montanore Mine will come to a close next month and before that time, the company is looking to gain all the support it can.

“I would like to ask the council to take a position in respect to the project,” Eric Klepfer, an independent consultant for Montanore Mine Corp., said last week at the Libby City Council meeting.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed copper and silver mine, located 18 miles south of Libby, began its 90-day public comment period Feb. 27.

Council members did not voice their opinion of the project during the meeting, but Klepfer anticipates their support, either individually or officially as a council.

“I can’t speak for the council,” Mayor Doug Roll said at the meeting, “but you have my support.”

Businesses and other entities throughout the area have received a packet with the draft EIS – summarized or in full form – with a letter of instructions on how to submit comments about the project, which will go into public record.

“We’re just talking to people and various organizations that we’ve been in contact with in the past,” Klepfer said. “We’re asking for their support.”

The Kootenai National Forest and Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which drafted the EIS, will hold a public meeting Thursday evening at the Ponderosa Room at Libby City Hall to get input on the project. The results will help the entities decide whether or not to grant approval for the mine.

An open house will run from 5-6:30 p.m., allowing the public to view maps of the project and ask questions of KNF and DEQ officials. The formal public comment period will begin afterward, allowing a limited time for each person to speak.

Klepfer is excited for the project to move forward, as it has already been bogged down in the permitting process. Now if the EIS is approved by 2010, Klepfer said, it will take another 1 1/2 years to finish the exploratory process before mining can begin.

“We’re poised, metal prices are still in the right range for the project,” Klepfer said. “We just want to get this process moving along and finished.”

In other news at last week’s meeting:

• The council agreed to have the fire committee meet with Ed Levert and come back with a recommendation as to whether or not to become a Firewise Community.

• The council voted unanimously to grant Kenneth Gehlhoff a variance to use his home address on West Poplar Street for a call center for Westmont Enterprises. The business employs five people, including his wife and himself. The vote canceled a variance he had at the business’s old address.

• The tree board reported its plans this season.

• Susie Rice spoke on behalf of the Kootenai Cross Country Ski Club, opposing consideration of any future logging on the South Flower ski trails. The trails, which are on city land, are used during the offseason for cross-country running and horse riding. Rice believes logging around the trails would encourage snowmobiling, which would damage them.

• An ordinance is in the works that would restrict skateboarding. It’s currently being drafted with the help of city attorney Chuck Evans.

• The council unanimously approved the Police Commission, which consists of Hugh Taylor, Bill Cunnane, and Rob Dufficy.