State is economic ‘bad actor’ in effort to crush Hecla

Print Article

We understand that there have been “bad actors” in the history of mining in Montana, and that as a result, the state’s people are naturally wary of being exploited again.

Nonetheless, the state’s “bad actor” law is itself being exploited as a means to prevent development of two mines in Northwest Montana.

The Department of Environmental Quality recently notified Hecla Mining CEO Phillips Baker and Hecla Mining itself that they are in violation of Montana’s Metal Mine Reclamation Act. The “bad actor” provision in that act prevents former mining companies and executives from pursuing new projects in Montana if they have outstanding cleanup obligations to the state.

The regulation makes sense on its surface. Holding mining companies and execs accountable is wise policy, but dig deeper and here’s the rub. The goal of the law was to prevent corporate shell games that would allow a “bad actor” to come back in a new form to continue bad behavior.

But that isn’t the case at all here. Pegasus Gold Corp, which employed Baker two decades ago, doesn’t exist anymore and has no relationship to Hecla.

Pegasus and related companies declared bankruptcy in the 1990s and abandoned a series of mines, including Zortman-Landusky, Beal Mountain, and Basin Creek, but since the state was left on the hook for massive clean-up costs, the DEQ is apparently looking for a cash cow to reimburse it.

Since Pegasus doesn’t exist anymore they are going after Baker and his new employer, Hecla, to try to blackmail them into paying more than $30 million in cleanup costs before the unrelated company can proceed with two silver and copper mines in the Cabinet Mountains.

We have no problem with Montana regulators taking steps to ensure that Hecla doesn’t repeat the “bad actor” behavior of Pegasus, but that doesn’t justify holding Hecla accountable for the sins of Pegasus. This is the equivalent of “reparations,” whereby modern-day white people would be ordered to pay a settlement to black people because 160 years ago, some white people owned some black people.

Fortunately, Hecla doesn’t have to fight this battle alone. More than 50 state legislators voiced support for Hecla in a letter sent to Gov. Steve Bullock and Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers.

The letter’s author, Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Libby, cast the state’s move as “another thinly veiled ploy of obstructionist groups that desire nothing more than to kill Montana’s economy and thwart responsible mineral extraction.”

It would be hard to argue with that contention. The two mines Hecla wants to develop would each employ hundreds of workers directly, and create 1,000 to 1,500 construction jobs during the three-to-four-year build-out phase. That would inject millions of dollars in wages, taxes and revenue into the hard-hit economies of Sanders and Lincoln counties.

Earthjustice and other groups would do anything to stop those mines from being built, and apparently the Bullock administration intends to aid and abet them in their efforts. We hope wiser heads prevail.

Montana has paid the price for careless stewardship of its natural resources in years past, but that doesn’t mean careful development can’t take place in the future.

Print Article

Read More Editorial

Good programs needs reliable funding

July 15, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The afterschool programs in Bigfork, Deer Park, Kila and Marion learned a hard lesson recently when they found out they had lost the federal grant money that had allowed the programs to operate for t...

Comments

Read More

Hospital needs a new approach

July 08, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake It was just two weeks ago when the Inter Lake published an editorial calling for greater financial transparency at Kalispell Regional Healthcare. That conclusion followed revelations that the hospit...

Comments

Read More

Court’s union ruling is common sense

July 01, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Public-sector unions were dealt a serious blow by the Supreme Court last week when the justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that repr...

Comments

Read More

Middle-schoolers make a difference

June 29, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Daily Inter Lake We’re beyond impressed with the three sixth-grade girls at Kalispell Middle School who developed an app — a computer application that can be downloaded to mobile devices — aimed at preventing suicide...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2018 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X