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Initiative 147 Defeated

Initiative 147, intended to return open-pit, cyanide heap-leach mining to Montana, was resoundingly defeated in the November 2004 elections by 256,658 against 185,695 votes, a 58% against 42% victory. Canyon Resources Mining Co. spent more than $3 million on failed publicity. In 1998, Initiative 137 which banned cyanide heap-leach mining was passed by the voters. In 1996, I-122, the Clean Water Initiative, required removal of carcinogens, toxins, metals and nutrients prior to dumping mining wastes into stream pollution mixing zones, where polluters can legally dump bio-accumulative toxins at high concentrations based on the belief that dilution is the solution to pollution (see Pollution Dilution). I-122 was defeated by the mining industry, which spent $3 million on radio, television, newspaper and billboard advertisements and door-to-door mailings.

Open-pit, cyanide heap-leach mines have always polluted water and caused environmental destruction. Examples like Beal Mountain Mine (near Anaconda), Zortman-Landusky (near Lodge Pole) and the Kendall Mine (near Lewistown) have polluted streams, drinking water and private property, killing wild trout, desecrating the landscape and creating reclamation messes that cost taxpayers millions to clean up after their bankruptcies.

Canyon Resources Mining Co. wanted to open a massive, open-pit, cyanide-heap leach gold mine 6 miles east of Lincoln on the Blackfoot River. The mine would have been the largest in Montana with a pit one mile long and one mile wide and 1200 ft. deep. One hundred tons of ore would be removed to make one ounce of gold. The result would have been waste rock dumps and cyanide heap-leach pads in an area of high water tables, close to the Blackfoot River. Each day, the mine would have pumped 15,800,000 gallons of groundwater into the river. Reclamation after exhaustion of the gold, would have allowed the pit to fill with water to make a sterile, 1,200 ft. deep lake. This was mining snafu of classic proportions. Montana DNRC was to prepare the EIS and Helena engineering firm Morrison & Maierle was hired to do the work for it. Subsequently the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accused Morrison & Maierle of incompetence in doing the work. Terra Matrix was then hired. The whole thing fell apart with much bickering and fault finding when Canyon Resources could not pay $163,700 for previous work and was reluctant to pay $500,000 for future work. Canyon Resources is now suing the State of Montana for millions of dollars in future losses.

Gold mining has been a burden on the world since its inception. In 1910 hydraulic placer gold mining was outlawed in Montana due to destruction of streams. Cyanide leaching gold mining is a failed technology and can only be done where states and regions ignore the damage and assume the cost of reclamation. 84% of all gold mined goes to jewelry -- hardly a need -- while only 6% goes to electronics. The remaining 10% goes into coinage and gold hoarding which increases during periods of economic instability. Our federal government holds 8,600 tons of gold, keeping vast amounts off the market and promoting mining of more gold. Since 1980, U.S. gold reserves have declined $142,000 million in value. U.S. policies have given massive subsidies to gold mining through land give-aways, royalty deals and tax breaks. Gold mining benefits from this profound corporate welfare more than any other industry. ~

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