GURWIT MINE PUMPKIN, Wyo.
— As the Trump administration mulls an expansion of the federal gold mining program, environmentalists are questioning whether the project could be harmful to a remote Native American reservation in Wyoming.
The Obama administration last year approved the GURwit Mine in the Black Hills region, which is about 300 miles (500 kilometers) northwest of the state’s westernmost city of Cheyenne.
But the Bureau of Land Management has not yet opened up the mine, which was slated to take up to 1 million acres, or more than one-third of Wyoming’s land.
The BLM did open the land to mining last year.
The BLM said last week it had not finalized a plan for mining.
The Interior Department has said the Gurwitch Mine could be developed as part of a larger mineral-rich region, with mineral-rights deals for up to 200,000 acres of the Black Hole area.
The Obama administration was the first to approve the mine and the BLM has said it has approved no plans to expand the area.
A coalition of Native American groups sued the Obama administration in September, saying the BLM’s approval of the mine was discriminatory, and that it violated tribal sovereignty by allowing mining without adequate consultation and approval.
The lawsuit alleges that the BLM acted without due process, disregarded environmental concerns and threatened tribal rights.
The suit says mining will destroy the fragile wildlife habitat of the Gourmets Indian Reservation.