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Mining Reclamation Graphic

Miners spraying mountain sideThe mining industry is the top toxic polluter in Montana. The industry should be made to pay up front for the inevitable full reclamation and cleanup costs. Like a long-range insurance policy, bonds should be large enough to cover the direct and indirect cost of reclamation. Since only the last 15 years state law require larger mines to clean up after themselves, there are no good examples of successful reclamation. While extraction of minerals over the last 150 years has now developed into a science, there has been little attention and/or investment for putting the exhausted land back together.

Mines must be reclaimed, pits back-filled, highwalls reduced, the entire site re-graded, and the many acres of exposed toxic wastes capped with 4 feet of impermeable clay with a non-acid generating material and topsoil, so that groundwater can no longer be polluted. Reclamation is more than making things look nice - we must breathe new life into the devastated land. It means returning the land to its previous condition in terms of aesthetics and function. Even if reclamation of the surface results in a landscape of natural topography and native plants, acid mine drainage and the toxic chemicals used in extracting and processing ore can contaminate groundwater for centuries.

Miners on stream bankIn the past, the mining industry has left the public with massive cleanup costs. Mining companies should be made to clean up abandoned, polluting mines - not the taxpayers. The cleanup burden must be shifted to where it belongs: on the shoulders of multi-national mining companies. The public eventually pays for any reclamation costs that are not covered by bonds. These costs also include impaired public health and pollution of groundwater, streams and air that can last for years. Generally, good reclamation costs money and mines will do anything to avoid it. A clean, unpolluted environment and a diversified economy is a benefit to communities in the long run. Reclamation is an important source of jobs in Montana, but the state has a responsibility to collect sufficient funds in bonds to cover the costs when mining is concluded, to ensure that cleanup costs are not left to taxpayers. ~

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