Mark Thompson is the Montana Mining Association president and manager of environmental affairs for Montana Resources in Butte.
On Friday, legislation was introduced in the state Senate that would ensure Montana’s environmental protections are amongst the most rigorous in the world. Senate Bill 409 carried by Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, is the advent of a new era of mining in Montana, where industry proposes standards progressive in concept, comprehensive in scope and definitive in responsible management of tailings storage facilities.
Following a tailings area breach in British Columbia, the Montana Mining Association took a long, hard look at what the Treasure State had on the books to prevent a similar disaster from occurring in Montana.
Mine tailings are the uneconomic remains that result from the milling process, and are conventionally stored in large impoundments similar to the one which breached in British Columbia last year. No such occurrence with a large impoundment has ever happened in Montana’s more than 100 years of mining, yet the Montana Mining Association had the foresight to facilitate a bill which would add a laundry list of new requirements in law and would implement measures to ensure that Montana’s impoundments remain safe.
Through an exhaustive investigative process, the association pooled together resources and information from the industry’s foremost experts in mining and engineering and has proposed a process with significant engineering and review requirements ahead of any new mine tailings storage facilities or expansions.
No other state or country has placed into statute metal mine regulation as rigorous as the proposal before the legislature today. SB 409 makes Montana a national leader in responsible metal mining.
Mining is a staple of Montana’s economy and has been since the territorial days. Companies have made innovative strides with their operations and have joined their fellow Montanans in placing increased importance on environmental stewardship, conservation, and sustainability. Successful mining today compels companies to obtain a certain social license to operate and meet stringent and arduous regulations to acquire and maintain operational permits.
In passing this new legislation, the public can be assured that the mining industry is placing environmental protections on par with economic development in the Treasure State. We are proud to help lead in protecting and providing for future generations of Montanans.
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