Mining industry advocates went on the offensive Wednesday against a proposed ballot initiative they say would effectively ban future mining in the state.
The opposition group to ballot initiative 186 announced its launch a day after the Montana Supreme Court ruled against the mining industry’s request to void the initiative.
I-186 would prohibit new hard-rock mines moving forward in Montana without a plan that provides clear and convincing evidence that the mine would not require perpetual treatment of water polluted by mine drainage.
“It just adds another litigation point to an already heavily regulated industry.”
Dave Galt is with the Stop I-186 to Protect Miners and Jobs. He’s also the former Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association.
“We’re here to protect miners and we’re here to protect jobs. And, you know, the mining industry has a huge footprint here in Montana. And it not just about mines. It is about all the businesses that work with mines and generate and economic impact in Montana.”
Galt says there are 6,000 jobs in Montana directly related to the mining industry and this initiative, he adds, would add uncertainty to the future of those jobs.
Although the ballot initiative opposition group announced its kickoff Wednesday, in Butte, its been raising money from mining companies with stakes in Montana and working on campaign efforts since early April.
State finance reports show the Montana Mining Association along with industry members spent $113,000 in the first month-and-a-half of their opposition effort.
Last month the political opposition group commissioned a study not yet published from the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research on the economic contribution of the state’s mining industry.
Although I-186 has not yet officially qualified for the ballot, supporters say they have more than enough signatures needed to get it on the ballot.
Dave Brooks, with Montana Trout Unlimited, is among those leading the YES for Responsible Mining campaign.
“It will have an effect on how we mine in the future in Montana. It will prohibit any mine that cannot show, with clear evidence, that they can mine without causing permanent pollution.”
Brooks says if passed, this policy would not rule out mining in the state, and would not impact already-approved mines.
More than 25,000 signatures are needed to approve innatives for the November ballot. Those signatures are due this Friday.