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Know the West

Don't worry, says the McDonald Mine's geologist


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

KD Feeback, geologist at the McDonald Mine, is not concerned about the hullabaloo over the environmental impact statement, the clean-water initiative or any opposition to the mine.

KD Feeback: "If you look at the history of mine permitting, our EIS process is normal for a project this size. They are always tedious and contentious. There are obviously a lot of people with a vested interest in seeing this project fail, and they will oppose us at every step.

"But we are not in charge of the EIS. We paid for it and we will provide whatever data we are asked to provide and that's the end of our involvement. The data is excellent quality. The people part of it is completely out of our control. All we can do is wait, along with everybody else.

"When I hear arguments against our proposal, from a technical standpoint there is very little substance. From an emotional standpoint, how can you deal with it? If you don't like mining, quit using the commodities that come from it. I'm a 1970s hipster type. I'm not nearly as callous to the touchy-feely stuff. But if everyone in the U.S. had a rudimentary understanding of geochemistry, 65 to 70 percent of environmental concerns would be gone ...

"From a technical standpoint, this is such an exemplary ore body. The sulfides are negligible. There are no bad-acting metals. I've drilled a million holes since 1989. I was the first person on this project with Phelps Dodge. There are no important risks. This is not a dangerous project. Size has little to do with risk factor. Our waste rock piles are sculpted to mimic topography. We will reclaim as we go along. When we finish, there will be pine trees that are 12 years old. This is absolutely the coolest thing I've ever worked on ...

"From a technical standpoint, (the clean-water initiative) had nothing to do with clean-water at all, in any way. That initiative was oriented expressly to stifle and, if possible, forbid mining. And how can you penalize one industry in Montana and not the rest of them?"