- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - The latest on Montana officials giving only partial approval to a $500 million silver and copper mine proposed near the Idaho border. (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

Developers of a $500 million silver and copper mine beneath a wilderness area near the Montana-Idaho border say the conditional approval granted to the project is sufficient for it to proceed.

State and federal regulators on Friday released long-awaited decisions on the Montanore mine near Libby, Montana. They say Mines Management, Inc. can proceed with a $30 million mining evaluation, but must demonstrate the mine won’t drain overlying creeks in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.

Mines Management chairman Glenn Dobbs says the company plans to move forward and will present the findings from its evaluation to regulators.

Dobbs last month said investors might shy away if the project didn’t get full approval. But he now says the company will be able to finance the mine based on Friday’s decisions.

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12:30 p.m.

Montana’s top environmental regulator says the state can’t give full approval to a major copper and silver mine near the Idaho border until its backers show the mine won’t drain water from creeks in an overlying wilderness area.

Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers on Friday approved several aspects of the $500 million Montanore mine. Those include its air quality permit and a transmission line linked to the project.

But Livers told The Associated Press that concerns remain over the potential for the mine to drain groundwater feeding into creeks in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.

Those effects are projected to linger for centuries.

The mine is proposed by Mines Management, Inc. of Spokane, Washington.

Livers says the operating permit sought the company is conditional upon further data showing damage to the creeks can be avoided.

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9 a.m.

Montana environmental regulators have partially approved a major silver and copper mine proposed beneath a federal wilderness area, casting uncertainty over the $500 million project near the Idaho border.

Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers on Friday approved an air quality permit and transmission line linked to the project. But Livers said in his decision that he would not issue a water pollution permit sought for the Montanore mine until hearing more public comment.

Opponents of the project that would tunnel beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness have raised concerns about its effects on waterways including Rock Creek and the Bull River.

Sponsor Mines Management Inc. of Spokane, Washington, has warned anything less than full approval could make it difficult to attract investors.

The mine would employ about 350 people.

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