Since Montana voters passed an initiative last November blocking certain kinds of mining, the industry has taken its hits. In the wake of a ban on new and expanded open-pit cyanide heap-leach mining, both the Montana Mining Association and the company behind the controversial McDonald gold mine have laid off employees.
The mining association is down to only
one employee: executive director Jill Andrews. And she can rattle
off a long list of companies that have either scaled back
operations to skeleton crews or quit the state altogether.
Exploration, she adds, has come to a dead halt. As a result, her
association has lost about 70 percent of its members and nearly
two-thirds of its budget.
"I'm in a world of
hurt," she told the Billings Gazette. Andrews says the association
plans to sue the state to overturn the
Besides the ban, Canyon Resources
Corp., the Colorado-based company proposing the McDonald mine at
the headwaters of the Blackfoot River, has been hammered by the
lowest gold prices in two decades. Recently, the company slashed
the mine's staff to two part-time workers.
President Richard DeVoto says the company is trying to gather
enough money to level a takings lawsuit against the state in an
effort to recoup $70 million that has been spent on the permitting
Speaking for the industry, Andrews says
she's bitter about what has happened in
"Environmental organizations have to
have an enemy in order to raise money," she says. "The mining
industry has been their poster child for years. When we're gone,
they'll find some other industry to destroy."