Armed militias celebrate victory in Montana mine stand-off with federal govt

Thursday, August 13, 2015
By Paul Martin
13 Aug, 2015

The Oath Keepers and other militia groups are celebrating a victory after a conflict over surface rights for a mine in Montana was taken to court. The militias were brought in to protect mine owners from federal interference.

“We will continue to remain vigilant and on site and make sure what we achieved yesterday is upheld,” spokesman for the militias Chris McIntire told AP on Wednesday, a day after the US Forest Service sought a court ruling over the contested rights.

The White Hope mine is located under the Helena National Forest near the town of Lincoln. The right for surface rights over the mine claim is contested between owners George Kornec and Phil Nappo and the Forestry Service.

The mine owners say the surface is rightfully theirs, because the claim was held before new rules took effect in 1955. The US government says that Kornec failed to provide proper paperwork for the mine in 1986, which led to it being registered as abandoned. The 1955 rules are thus now applicable, which in turn means that the mining company has to provide a detailed operational plan for the mine and that the surface over their property is now public land.

Fearing that the authorities would demolish a garage built over the mine by force, Kornec and Nappo called in armed militias to protect it. Last week came the Oath Keepers, a group best known for their participation in last year’s standoff at Bandy Ranch and also showing up in Ferguson – both during the last year’s disturbances and this month for the anniversary protest.

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