For more than 15 years, the Center has provided legal representation to the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in their fight for environmental justice and clean-up of the contamination caused by the Zortman and Landusky gold mines adjacent to the Fort Belknap Reservation. Through lawsuits and public pressure, we helped the Tribes shut down the mines – once the largest heap-leach gold mines in North American – and demand the first-ever complete reclamation of the open–pit mines.
Reclamation is ongoing, and the water quality in King Creek, Alder Gulch and Swift Gulch continues to improve. Even so, the pollution often continues to exceed state water-quality standards. A Technical Working Group made up of tribal and state representatives has been monitoring the progress for over ten years, and in 2015 year the tribes entered into an agreement with the State of Montana to continue working together through the Technical Working Group until the conclusion of the reclamation and water treatment work.
Still recovering from the environmental contamination of the Zortman-Landusky mines, the tribes are determined not to become victims of environmental assaults in the future. We are committed to working with the tribes not only to help clean up past contamination, but also to ensure their abilities to protect their lands from future contamination.