It's time to hold mining companies accountable.

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 A look at water quality impacts from Montana’s hard rock mines. Click image to download report

A look at water quality impacts from Montana’s hard rock mines. Click image to download report

Montanans already spend millions on cleanup

Montanans spend millions each year cleaning up toxic pollution left behind from both historic and modern mines.

Montana has 3,500 abandoned mines, more than 200 of which are known to be discharging contaminants and polluting our clean water. Our state has nearly 2,500 miles of streams polluted by acid mine drainage, lead, arsenic, and mercury from abandoned mines.

 
 
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Millions of taxpayer dollars spent with no end in sight:

This is not an issue isolated to mines from the turn of the century. It's happening today.

There have been five major mining company bankruptcies in Montana: Pegasus Gold II, W.R. Grace, Asarco, Canyon Resources and Atna. In every case, the reclamation bonds were insufficient to cover the full cost of clean-up and long-term water treatment.

Below is a peek at costs each year:

 Montanans have spent millions of dollars cleaning up perpetual pollution such as acid mine drainage, lead, mercury and arsenic. I-186 would help protect our clean water.

At the Beal Mountain Mine near Anaconda, roughly $13.7 million in public funds has already been spent for reclamation and water treatment (approximately $6-7 million by the State and the rest by the Forest Service.) An additional $39 million is needed for full clean up at the mine. 

At the Zortman Landusky mine near Havre, water treatment for acid mine drainage will be required in perpetuity. As of 2016, a total of $73 million has been spent on reclamation and water treatment at this mine, with no end in sight for ongoing costs. Of the total, roughly $26 million has been paid with state or federal funds. 

 Mike Horse Tailings Dam Reclamation. Photo courtesy EcoFlight

Mike Horse Tailings Dam Reclamation. Photo courtesy EcoFlight

Basin Creek mine southwest of Helena operated from 1989 until January 1999. Following the Pegasus bankruptcy, the entities responsible for Basin Creek had insufficient assets to complete required reclamation. Consequently, it has cost the public more than $3 million to clean up. 

At the Kendall Mine near Lewistown, which operated from 1990 to 1997, water quality problems will require water treatment for up to 40 years. Despite more than a decade of effort, Montana DEQ was unable to obtain an increase in the reclamation bond from the company before it filed for bankruptcy in November 2015. As a result, the State of Montana is now a creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings against Atna Resources for $6.2 million, the amount needed for long-term treatment. 

According to the Helena Independent Record, the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex (which includes the Mike Horse Mine) has $11.4 million left from a $39 million settlement with former site owner Asarco. However unforeseen expenses have popped up, putting into question whether the remaining funds are enough to adequately complete the remediation.

None of this takes into account the 276 abandoned mines in Montana, which will cost millions if not billions to adequately clean up due to environmental hazards such as leaking holding pits, mine waste, tailings and/or abandoned mining chemicals. 

 
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Legislature has failed to act:

 

Clean water advocates have tried to pass modest mine reform through the Montana Legislature in recent years. Lawmakers killed those bills under the influence of the mining industry. That is why we are taking this simple, thoughtful solution to the people. 

 
 The legislature has failed to act to protect Montanans clean water. I-186 would ensure that future mines do not leave behind perpetual pollution such as acid mine drainage, lead, mercury and arsenic.
 Children playing in the Yellowstone River in Montana. I-186 would help keep Montana’s rivers and streams clean.

Children playing in the Yellowstone River in Montana. I-186 would help keep Montana’s rivers and streams clean.

 

Hardrock Mining Can Be Done Without Creating Perpetual Pollution:

 
 

Stillwater Mine (operating) 

The Stillwater Mine is an underground platinum and palladium mine in operation since 1986. The Custer National Forest and Montana Department of Environmental Quality (formerly Department of State Lands) were the lead agencies for NEPA and MEPA actions at the Stillwater Mine. An EIS was completed in 1985, and there have been multiple mine expansions, requiring further NEPA analysis. Although there have been some water quality impacts from mine operations, none of the NEPA documents have predicted long-term water treatment, and none are expected post-closure. According to the 2012 FEIS, “mine waters will no longer be treated post-closure.” Eventual disposal of these mine waters would occur via discharge to groundwater through percolation ponds and underground workings or to the respective river through a constructed channel. 

 

 

Troy Mine (Closed – Reclamation being performed) 

The Troy Mine was a copper and silver mine operating in the Cabinet mountains, which first began operations in 1981 and operated intermittently until it discontinued operations in 2015. The Montana Department of State Lands and the Kootenai National Forest were the lead agencies for NEPA and MEPA actions in permitting the mine. 

In the original EIS (1978), the EIS relied on a USGS report in determining that the risk from AMD would be low. Specifically, the EIS determined that “Although the potential for encountering pyritic materials cannot be dismissed, there is no evidence to indicate that pyrite and resultant acid mine drainage will develop from the Mt. Vernon operation.” 

This projection was confirmed in the June 2012 Final EIS for the Troy Mine Revised Reclamation Plan, conducted by the Montana DEQ and the Kootenai National Forest, 

 

 

Butte Highlands Joint Venture (draft EIS) 

BHJV in Silver Bow County is a proposed underground gold mine owned by New Jersey Mining Company and located 15 miles sound of Butte. The 2013 draft EIS includes plans for dewatering of and treated discharge into Fish, Moose, and Basin Creeks.