Montana bill allowing new open-pit mining sites endorsed by the House of Representatives

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March 31, 2011

HELENA, Montana: With a 63-37 vote, the Montana House of Representatives endorsed Senate Bill 306 that would allow cyanide leaching of ore from new open-pit gold or silver mines in the state. Senate Bill 306 would amend the 1998 voter-passed initiative I-137 that banned new cyanide leach mines in Montana. Senate Bill 306 allows any new or existing open-pit mines access to process its ore at any cyanide heap-leach operations that existed before I-137 and thus exempt from its ban.

Montanans for Multiple Use President Don Serba says the bill is about creating jobs and combating the unemployment rate in Montana. "We need to continue to look for ways to sustain the natural resource businesses and industries that are already here and to make new opportunities available to build the economy and create jobs. This bill does both," Serba says.[1]

Critics of the bill say it violates the will of Montana voters and puts the state's water at risk for pollution. "What doesn't the sponsor understand about the word 'No?' " asked Rep. Virginia Court, D-Billings. "Montanans don't like open-pit mining. ... Please respect our voters. Please respect our constituents. Montana has spoken: No means no."[2]

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