Mining Company Funds Campaign to Repeal Cyanide-Mining Ban in Montana

In 1998, Montana voters approved a ban on cyanide open-pit gold mining, which for years had defaced the state’s landscape and polluted its groundwater. That ban could be repealed by an initiative set to appear on the November ballot, funded almost exclusively by Canyon Resources Corp., a mining company that wants to build a massive gold mine on the headwaters of the legendary Blackfoot River. Of the $1 million spent so far by supporters of the initiative — outspending opponents by 395 to 1 — 97 percent has come from Canyon. The company says its proposed mine would have no adverse effects on the Blackfoot, but mining engineers say that cyanide leakage is practically inevitable. Canyon touts the jobs the mine would create, but federal government figures show that mining contributes only a tiny sliver of the state’s revenue. Said Thomas Power, chair of the economics department at the University of Montana, “The engine of growth [in Montana] has been recreational opportunities, scenic characteristics, and wildlife. To threaten this engine with a mine on the Blackfoot is nuts, from an economic point of view.”