The company has finished building surface structures including an administrative building, wastewater treatment plant and rock storage area. About 300 people work there.

The Huron Mountain Club and other groups unsuccessfully challenged the DEQ permit before an administrative law judge and in circuit court.

In its latest suit, the club said the mine will reach beneath the Salmon Trout River, causing its water levels to drop and its temperature to change. It says the Army Corps should have ordered the company to apply for permits under the Clean Water Act and another federal law dealing with rivers and harbors.

The Corps decided federal permits weren't needed because it regulates only navigable waters and connected wetlands, and the mine is about 21 miles upstream from the river's navigable portion, according to court documents.

In his ruling, Bell said the club's lawsuit has not shown the Army Corps was legally obligated to require permits, and that decision "falls squarely within the discretionary and enforcement actions of the agency that this court has no power to order."

Because the suit has little chance of prevailing, the public interest in halting construction is "slim, and is outweighed by the public's interest in maintaining jobs, tax revenues, and capital investment in the local economy," he said.

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