Citizen Initiative Filed to Prevent Abandoned Mine Pollution

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Advocates for clean water and responsible mining filed paperwork with the Montana Secretary of State’s office for a citizen initiative to ensure that new mines in Montana are operated responsibly and prevent permanent pollution from acid mine drainage and contaminants like arsenic, lead, and mercury.

“This initiative is about protecting Montana taxpayers and our clean water, and holding foreign mining companies accountable,” said David Brooks, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited.

The proposed mining initiative would require any new hardrock mine in Montana to have a reclamation plan that is sufficient to avoid the need for permanent treatment of polluted water.

“When mining companies file for bankruptcy and leave their toxic waste behind, Montana taxpayers get stuck with clean up costs,” said Brooks.

The mining waste left behind at the Zortman-Landusky mine alone cost Montana taxpayers $26 million to clean up. The ongoing and permanent treatment of polluted water from the mine is still costing Montanans $2-3 million each year.

Acid mine drainage at the Mike Horse Mine in the upper Blackfoot River Valley has caused lasting harm to that iconic trout stream. Approximately 26 million gallons of acid mine drainage must be captured and treated every year.

“Montana’s outdoor heritage is threatened by irresponsible mining practices,” said Hilary Hutcheson, a fly fishing guide who owns Lary’s Fly and Supply.

“Montana is rich with clean water and blue ribbon trout streams. Future mining must be done responsibly to ensure we don’t lose the things that make Montana so special,” said Hutcheson.

Col. Richard Liebert, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who ranches south of Great Falls, says that he and his farm and ranch neighbors depend on the Smith River’s priceless clean water for agriculture and recreational income.

“If foreign mining companies claim they have ‘state of the art’ technology, then taxpayers must demand they have a plan and put up cash money up front to clean up all toxic consequences. Let’s demand the corporations and our government measure twice and cut once,” said Liebert.

Supporters expect to have a petition back from the Secretary of State to begin signature gathering by late March.

Montana Trout Unlimited has stepped out in support of the proposed ballot initiative that will be an asset in protecting our coldwater fisheries from mining contamination and protecting taxpayers from the burden of cleanup.

Mining pollution from acid mine drainage, arsenic, mercury, and lead is contaminating our water and threatening public health. Out-of-state and foreign mining companies have a history of sending their profits overseas, breaking their promises, and then going bankrupt, leaving Montanans to deal with their toxic pollution that requires treating contaminated water forever. It’s unfair that Montana taxpayers are left to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up costs while these mining companies walk away with billions in profits. It’s time to hold these foreign mining companies accountable and making sure future mining is done responsibly.

This initiative is about protecting Montana taxpayers and public health and holding foreign mining companies accountable. It will require a reclamation plan for new hardrock mines that prevents permanent pollution from acid mine drainage and water contaminated by arsenic, lead, and mercury. It does not affect existing mining operations.

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