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Cyanide Crisis Continues in Montana

Just a quick note to our bought-and-paid-for legislators in Helena. There is a short, informative story this morning on Associated Press about the continuing pollution problems at the abandoned Beal Mountain gold mine near Anaconda due to it’s cyanide leach pits.

Forest Service to fix liner at abandoned Beal gold mine

In 1996, Beal Mountain was touted as one of the most environmentally friendly hardrock gold mines in the U.S. That didn’t last long. By 1998, mine owner Pegasus Gold had declared bankruptcy, shuttered the mine and forfeited their reclamation bond of $6.2 million. By 2006, the U.S. Forest Service (read taxpayers) had incurred cleanup costs of more than $14 million. They have removed and treated millions of gallons of contaminated water and will continue to do so for many years into the future.The new pond liner will cost millions more.

“If nothing else that we’ve found out over the last 30 years, cyanide heap leach liners always leak,” said [Clark Fork] coalition attorney Matt Clifford. “It’s going to be expensive to find that leak and fix it.”

A teaspoon of 2% sodium cyanide is enough to kill a healthy adult. Water downstream from the Beal Mountain mine continues to show cyanide levels as high as 23 parts per billion (ppb) and selenium levels at 6 ppb. Both of these numbers greatly exceed Montana water quality standards and are highly toxic to aquatic life. There are 65 million gallons of water contaminated with high levels of cyanide and heavy metals in the leach pad. This is only one of hundreds of abandoned hardrock mines across Montana that continue to cost citizens millions of dollars in cleanup costs. At the Zortman-Landusky mine, also owned by Pegasus, the company paid out a $60 million settlement to clean up their cyanide mess. The taxpayers of Montana will pay out more than $100 million in additional cleanup costs and drainage water will have to be treated “in perpetuity”. Before declaring bankruptcy in 1998, Pegasus paid $5 million in bonuses to its top executives for the great job they had done.

In 1998, the citizens of Montana voted to discontinue the use of highly polluting cyanide heap-leach operations in Montana. In 2004 we voted down a repeal of that law written by mining interests. Appropriately, on April Fool’s Day, the Montana House voted 62-37 to piss on the will of the people of Montana and passed SB-306 to once again allow corporate interests to institute cyanide heap-leach operations in our state and to freely pollute our waters. The measure was previously passed by the Senate and now goes to the desk of Governor Schweitzer.

Please take a minute to let the Governor know that the voters of Montana have clearly spoken on this issue twice and we will not allow corporate money to further ruin our valuable environment. If there is a reason for Governor Schweitzer brandishing his “Veto Iron” this bill must fall near the top of the priority list.  The Governor’s email comment page.


One Response

  1. […] public votes against cyanide leach mining (SB 306) gains an interesting twist (this courtesy the Button Valley Bugle) — the appallingly “real life” story of a “model” Montana mining […]

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