Mining supporters officially launched their campaign today in Butte to fight a proposed ballot initiative that would add regulations for all new and future metal mines.
According to the proposed ballot language, I-186 “requires the Department of Environmental Quality to deny a permit for any new hardrock mines in Motnana unless the reclamation plan provides clear and convincing evidence that the mine will not require perpetual treatment of water polluted by acid mine drainage or other contaminants. The terms ‘perpetual treatment,’ ‘perpetual leaching,’ and ‘contaminants’ within I-186 are not fully defined and would require further definition from the Montana Legislature or through Department of Environmental Quality rulemaking.”
Dave Galt heads the campaign called “Stop I-186 To Protect Miners and Jobs.” He thinks this ballot measure has a hidden agenda.
“I think their agenda is crystal clear,” he said. “And I was crystal clear in the kick-off that this is about banning mining in Montana and that’s the ultimate agenda.”
“We obviously don’t agree with that at all,” said Colin Cooney, Montana field coordinator for the national Trout Unlimited group. He spoke on behalf of the Montana chapter. “And we would not be running this initiative if we thought that would be the case.”
Cooney insisted the ballot measure would not affect any current hardrock mine or mining jobs. He said the proposed I-186 measure is about protecting clean water and Montana’s rivers and streams.
Galt countered Montana already has stringent regulations on the mining industry and water quality.
Supporters of Initiative 186 have until Friday to collect enough signatures to get their measure before voters in November.
Cooney said the proponents of I-186 have gathered just over 40,000 signatures. They’ll need to have at least 25,000 signatures of registered Montana voters to qualify for the November general election ballot.
Several proposed ballot measures are trying to meet Friday's deadline to submit the signatures they gethered to election administrators.