Court Ends Attempt to Mine for Gold Near Yellowstone
A ruling issued by the Montana Supreme Court Wednesday has effectively squashed a plan by Canadian company Lucky Minerals to search for gold in the mountains above Paradise Valley, the northern entryway to the iconic national park.
"Never underestimate the power of a community united to preserve its values to move mountains — and to protect them," Michelle Uberuaga, executive director of the Park County Environmental Council, one of two conservation groups behind the winning lawsuit, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
For the Park County Environmental Council, co-plaintiff Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) and their legal representatives Earthjustice, Wednesday's victory was a long time coming. Here is a brief timeline of key events.
- 2011: The Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) was amended to stop district judges from halting projects approved by state agencies while new environmental reviews were being conducted, even if the approval was ruled to be illegal.
- 2017: Environmental groups sued after Montana's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a drilling permit for Lucky Minerals to look for gold near Emigrant Peak, north of Yellowstone.
- 2018: A Park County District Court judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and said the permit was illegal because the DEQ did not fully consider the environmental impacts of the project. However, the judge could not block the exploratory drilling from taking place because of the 2011 amendment. The conservation groups then asked the judge to rule the amendment unconstitutional.
- 2019: The district judge ruled in favor of the conservation groups and tossed out the amendment.
- 2020: The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision that the amendment was unconstitutional after the DEQ and the company brought an appeal.
"Years in the making, this is a momentous win for GYC, our partners and the people of Montana who know the Greater Yellowstone is more valuable than gold," GYC Senior Montana Conservation Associate Joe Josephson wrote in a press release.
"By closing this loophole, the Court has substantially strengthened protections against irresponsible mining practices, and has affirmed that Montana laws enacted to protect places like Emigrant Gulch are a critical part of protecting our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment."
Mining opponents argued that Lucky Minerals' exploration and mining plans would pollute the Yellowstone River with acid runoff and toxic metals; interrupt essential habitat for species like grizzly bears, lynx, elk and wolverines; and harm the local community by disrupting recreation areas and ruining views of Emigrant Peak from Yellowstone National Park itself, Earthjustice explained.
In Wednesday's decision, the Supreme Court also upheld the District Court's decision that the project required an updated environmental review from the DEQ, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. It agreed that the initial review did not consider the project's impacts on wildlife or develop an adequate plan for capturing polluted water during the drilling process. It disagreed that the original approval did not do enough to consider the project's impact on water quality or nearby public lands.
Lucky Minerals' lawyer KD Feeback declined to comment on their behalf, but did say that the ruling on the MEPA amendment would be disappointing to the mining and timber industries.
"As the Legislature indicated at the time of the subject amendment, meritless and continual litigation over every project proposal is inefficient and uneconomic," he told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. "The Court's decision otherwise will continue that inefficiency to the detriment of Montana's economic well-being and work force."
If Lucky Minerals wants to continue with its mining plans, it will have to submit a new proposal, according to GYC. But Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine thinks the gig is up.
"This latest ruling ensures that Lucky Minerals can't harm clean water and native wildlife at the gateway into Yellowstone National Park under cover of a license that was never legally issued in the first place," Harbine said in a press release. "Lucky Minerals should have read the writing on the wall a long time ago."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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