Rock Creek

Location: Sanders Co., Montana, USA
Ownership: 100% by Revett Mining Company, Inc.
Project Type: Underground Room & Pillar Mine / Conventional Flotation Processing
Project Status: Late Stage Permitting
Products: Silver / Copper Concentrates
Commodities: Silver / Copper (40% Ag / 60% Cu split by value)
Resources (Inf.)  137 million tons @ 1.67opt Ag & 0.72% Cu
(124 million tonnes @ 57g/mt Ag & 0.72% Cu)

The Rock Creek ore body was discovered by Bear Creek Mining (Kennecott) in the early 1960's, and was later optioned to ASARCO. Revett acquired the property in 1999. In addition to the Rock Creek claims, Revett also acquired some contiguous claims which were held by Kennecott; the Copper Gulch, Horizon Basin and Rock Peak claims (the "Adjacent Properties"). A September 1984 report by U.S. Borax identified inferred resources in these Adjacent Properties of 47.8 million tons grading 1.66 opt Ag and 0.54% Cu based on drilling they completed.

The Cabinet Mountain Wilderness area was formed in 1964 under the Wilderness Act which allowed holders of valid mineral rights to continue exploring their properties using surface drilling through December 31, 1983. The 1964 Wilderness Act allowed mineral exploration and development under the 1872 Mining Law to occur in wilderness to the same extent as prior to the 1964 Act until December 31, 1983, when the 1964 Act withdrew the CMW from mineral entry, subject to valid existing rights. This withdrawal mean the Forest Service had to confirm that valid rights existed before approving activities after 1983. To establish valid rights, claimants must show a discovery of a valuable mineral deposit existed on each claim before the withdrawal date, and they must maintain that discovery. In 1985, the Forest Service concluded that ASARCO had established valid existing rights to the Rock Creek deposit. Mineral patents for Rock Creek were issued in 1989 which affirmed the ownership of the mineral rights by Revett.

ASARCO explored the Rock Creek property from 1974 through 1983, expanding on the work previously started in 1966 by Kennecott. The permitting process commenced in 1987 with the submission of a plan of operations to the United States Forest Service ("USFS") and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Rock Creek deposit is situated on USFS administered land, specifically within the Kootenai National Forest, and under the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness Area, and as such required Federal, as well as State approvals to develop.

The Permitting Process: 

The National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") sets the framework for project permitting consideration through completion of an interagency environmental impact study with the main agencies consisting of the USFS, DEQ, EPA, Corp of Engineers and Tribal Groups. The process typically consists of a Draft EIS followed by public comment followed by issuance of a Final EIS. The Final Environmental Impact Statement ("FEIS"), presents the findings of the comprehensive environmental studies and the project alternatives considered. The Final EIS (issued in 2001 for Rock Creek based on the preferred Alternative V) is the basis for approval or denial of development of the project. Documentation of the project approval or denial is contained in the Record of Decision, issued jointly by the USFS and DEQ in the case of the Rock Creek Project.

The permitting process culminated with the USFS and DEQ issuing a Record of Decision ("RoD") approving of development of the Rock Creek Project in June 2003. The DEQ will issue an Operating Permit for the Project one the Evaluation Phase of the project is completed and construction is ready to begin. The Evaluation Phase is managed by DEQ through issuance of an Exploration License which is in place.

A companion document to the FEIS and RoD is the Biological Opinion which is completed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) after thorough review of all potential impacts to wildlife. The Biological Opinion (BO) addresses potential impacts and appropriate mitigation measures for wildlife species listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and in our case, the two species of concern are the grizzly bear and the bull trout. The BO was also issued in 2003 and subsequently revised several times after legal challenges were brought from environmental groups with the last amendment of the BO completed in 2007. The BO resulted in a comprehensive mitigation plan for grizzly bears and bull trout as explained briefly in the Environmental Section below.

The Litigation Process: 

Litigation brought by environmental groups challenged both the USFS Record of Decision and the Biological Opinion were eventually merged into one lawsuit due to overlapping issues and the Federal District Court issued an Order and Opinion in May 2010. The Order vacated the FEIS and RoD and remanded them back to the USFS for further consideration due to issues related to the NEPA process with the Court recommending completion of a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) to correct the NEPA issues. We are currently working cooperatively with the USFS to complete an SEIS and anticipate completion of the SEIS process in 2013. Revett and the USFWS prevailed on the issues related to the ESA challenges and the environmental groups subsequently appealed that part of the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In November 2011 we received a critical decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the prior District Court's favorable ruling regarding those challenges brought under the ESA. Currently, there is no active or pending litigation on the Rock Creek Project.

The Development Process: 

The project as proposed, is to be developed in two phases: (1) the construction and development of the evaluation adit and (2) the development of the mine and construction of the mill facilities. Once we have the RoD and other permitting approvals in hand, Revett will commence its Evaluation Adit Program that will consist of developing a 7,000 foot long adit to provide access via a decline into the ore body. The evaluation program, taking an estimated 18-24 months to complete, will further define the technical aspects of the project and result in a revised technical and economic feasibility study. Presuming a positive feasibility study, and the receipt of necessary construction permits and project financing, Revett intends to develop Rock Creek as an approximate 10,000 ton per day, underground room and pillar mine similar to Troy with conventional crushing and grinding of the ore followed by mineral flotation processing, producing a copper/silver-based concentrate that would be shipped to a smelter by rail. The ground rock material or "tailing" left after the copper and silver minerals are extracted will be de-watered to a paste consistency and deposited in a tailings impoundment and concurrently reclaimed with grasses and trees throughout the mine life.