Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke approved a 20-year ban on new mining claims in the towering mountains north of Yellowstone National Park on Monday after two proposed gold mines raised concerns that an area drawing tourists from the around the globe could be spoiled. As Zinke signed the mineral ban at an outdoor ceremony in Montana's Paradise Valley, a bank of clouds behind him broke apart to reveal the snow-covered flank of Emigrant Peak, the AP reports. The picturesque, 10,915-foot mountain has been at the center of the debate over whether mining should be allowed.
The former Montana congressman was joined by local business owners and residents who pushed for the ban after companies began drafting plans for new mines in an area frequented by wolves, elk, bears, and other wildlife. "I'm a pro-mining guy. I love hardrock" mining, Zinke said. "But there are places to mine and places not to mine." Zinke's order extends a temporary ban imposed in 2016 under former President Obama on new claims for gold, silver, and other minerals on 47 square miles of public lands in the Paradise Valley and Gardiner Basin. Most of the land is within the Custer Gallatin National Forest.