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US approves 20-year ban on new mining claims near Yellowstone

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke approved a 20-year ban on new mining claims north of Yellowstone National Park, the Associated Press reported Oct. 8.

The order extended a temporary ban the Obama administration introduced in 2016 on new claims covering 122 square kilometers of public lands in the Paradise Valley and Gardiner Basin, most of which is within the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

While the ban will not end mining on private land or take away pre-existing mining claims on public land, it could curtail larger developments in the area.

Two mining projects near Yellowstone have been on hold since 2016 to enable an environmental review, including Lucky Minerals Inc.'s early stage Emigrant copper-gold-silver project in Montana.

Lucky Minerals President John Mears told the newswire that the company still plans exploration work in 2019 on private lands around Emigrant Peak that are inside one of the areas covered by the mining ban.

"It's up to the government to decide if we have valid existing rights, but in the meantime, we'll carry on," Mears said. "We won't be able to acquire any more ground, but we have enough."

The Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, a group of local business owners who supported the ban, will now work to make it permanent legislation.