When Phelps Dodge sold its share in the McDonald Mine this fall, no one was much surprised. The company had tried to get rid of its 72.5 percent share in 1994, when, after having spent over $42 million, it asked its partner, Denver-based Canyon Resources, and another company, Echo Bay, to take over developing the McDonald Mine.
Echo Bay tentatively agreed,
but then it spent $2.3 million asking questions and changed its
mind. Recently, Phelps Dodge convinced Canyon Resources to buy it
With Phelps Dodge gone, Montana's state
legislators may be visited by fewer lobbyists when they next meet
in 1999. Phelps Dodge, under the name Seven-Up Pete Joint Venture,
hired four lobbyists to push pro-mining bills through the
Legislature in 1995, and 13 lobbyists in 1997. In 1995, the company
did not report hiring any lobbyists and was questioned for
violating Montana's lobbyist disclosure
Compared to Phelps Dodge, the largest copper
mining company in the world, Canyon Resources is small potatoes. It
has managed two gold mines, but neither is close to the size of the
proposed McDonald Mine.
In 1987, Canyon Resources
took over the Kendall Mine in central Montana. Four years later, in
two separate incidents, a pond liner shredded and a pipeline burst,
spilling thousands of gallons of cyanide solution. Since Kendall is
now being reclaimed, Canyon Resources only makes money at its
Briggs Mine near Death Valley, now in its second year of
Company finances are shaky. Its 1996
annual report showed $26.8 million in accumulated losses since
1992. During the past two months, its stocks lost over half their
value, dropping from $2.44 to $1.06 a share.
company president Richard DeVoto says there's nothing to worry
about. Falling prices for gold have devalued stock in all gold
companies, he says, but regardless of its finances now, Canyon
Resources will post a bond sufficient to cover reclamation at the
McDonald Mine. "We want to make the land better than it was before
we started," DeVoto told the Helena Independent-Record. "It (the
mine) could become a recreational area."