Federal Judge Edward Lodge asked parties in a billion dollar mining pollution lawsuit to try to reach settlement before the case goes to trial in Boise in late January. He sent a memo to lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice, the tribe and three area mining companies asking for a last attempt to forge agreement that could avoid an expensive trial that likely will cast the region in a negative light. Justice and the tribe are suing Asarco, owner of Sunshine mining interests, Hecla and Callahan Mining seeking damages for years of mining pollution that deposited toxic metals in the South Fork and Lower Coeur d'Alene River. Lodge wrote he reviewed the tribe's claim for damage to "spiritual and cultural resource'' and that he is, "Not likely to allow this claim for recovery.'' He also leaves open whether the United States will enjoy immunity for its participation in Idaho mining. The government was involved in operating area mines during World War II. Justice has argued the federal government is exempt from liability in this case because it was acting in a regulatory authority as permitted by law. Lodge said he will leave the question open for debate at trial.