Voice of the River

Protect Montana Taxpayers and Clean Water

YES for Responsible Mining has started gathering signatures for I-186 and they are seeking volunteers to assist. Volunteers will play an integral role in helping the campaign collect over 25,000 signatures by June 22 to ensure the initiative appears on the November ballot.

More than 200 abandoned mines are known to be discharging contaminants and polluting Montana’s clean water[1]. This toxic pollution from hardrock mines, including arsenic, lead, and mercury, contaminates our rivers, lakes, and streams while polluting drinking water and threatening public health. When mining companies file for bankruptcy and leave their toxic waste behind, Montana taxpayers get stuck with cleanup costs.

I-186 will ensure that new mines in Montana operate responsibly. It will hold mining companies accountable and no longer allow them to leave behind a toxic mess requiring perpetual treatment of water contaminated by acid mine drainage and heavy metals.

Of the hundreds of abandoned hardrock mines in Montana, five major mining company bankruptcies immediately come to mind. In every case, the reclamation bonds were insufficient to cover the full cost of cleanup and long-term water treatment, leaving Montana taxpayers to foot the bill.

For example, the Zortman Landusky Mine, located near Havre in the Little Rocky Mountains, has cost taxpayers $27.5 million to date and will require another $ 1 – 2 million dollars each year for perpetual treatment of acid mine drainage.

I-186 requires new hardrock mines in Montana to have a reclamation plan that provides clear and convincing evidence that the mine will not require the perpetual treatment of water polluted by acid mine drainage or other contaminants such as arsenic, lead, or mercury.

Hardrock mines can operate without polluting water long after they have been closed. Although the Stillwater Mine, an underground platinum and palladium mine, has impacted water quality, the environmental impact suggests that no long-term contamination will require perpetual treatment of water.

The Gallatin River Task Force will host a training for volunteers interested in gathering signatures on a petition for I-186. Join the Task Force and YES for Responsible Mining on Thursday, May 31st from 4 to 5 PM at the Big Sky Water and Sewer District Conference room.

The training consists of two parts and is mandatory for anyone interested in gathering signatures for I-186. Volunteers must be 18 years or older, a Montana resident, and registered to vote in Montana.

The first part will provide an overview of the initiative, including background and what the initiative hopes to accomplish. The second part will cover the process of gathering signatures and how the ballot initiative process works in Montana.

For more information or to express interest, contact kristin@gallatinrivertaskforce.org or call (406) 993-2519.

[1] Autumn Coleman, Montana DEQ Abandoned Land Program, Testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, March 15, 2018.


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