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:
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.
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.