BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials are considering giving only partial approval to a $500 million silver and copper mine proposed beneath a wilderness area near the Idaho border.

Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers says there are continuing concerns with the Montanore Mine's potential effect on surrounding waterways. He says agency officials are unsure they can approve the full mining plan that's been proposed. A decision is expected in late January. The project is sponsored by Mines Management Inc. of Spokane, Washington.

It would remove up to 120 million tons of ore from beneath the Cabinet Mountains wilderness south of Libby, Montana. Mines Management chairman Glenn Dobbs says anything less than full approval could make it difficult to attract investors and or force a sale that would delay the project.

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