Today, FBIC President Andrew Werk Jr. and Council of the Fort Belknap Indian Community met with officials from the Bureau of Land Management to discuss the FBIC’s concerns about the planned gold exploration at the former Zortman and Landusky gold mines. President Werk had a very positive and helpful discussion and exchange of information with Nada Culver, Deputy Director of Policy and Programs and Danna Jackson, Counsel to the Director.
The President shared the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes’ alarm that the company proposing to do the exploration, Blue Arc, LLC, is not registered with the Secretary of State and not authorized to do business in Montana. Blue Arc has also apparently failed to maintain its corporate registration in its home state of Minnesota, according to information available on the internet.
President Werk said, “It is extremely troubling that steps toward renewed mining are being approved when this company cannot really be held accountable in Montana, because it has no registered agent and because it should not being doing business here at all.” Without being registered and having a registered agent in Montana, Blue Arc cannot be readily taken to court in the event that it causes further pollution or damages the reclamation that has already been done to the mines.
Apparently, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality did not require that Blue Arc verify that it is a corporation that is registered and authorized to transact business in Montana when it approved Blue Arc’s proposed exploration plans on February 1, 2021. The FBIC and two environmental organizations, the Montana Environmental Information Center and Earthworks, filed suit against DEQ and Blue Arc on April 1, 2021, on the grounds that DEQ failed to consult with the Tribes as required and that the Environmental Assessment was inadequate and flawed. The parties are represented by Earth Justice.
“We are really dismayed that this could occur after the painful history of the Pegasus Gold Company going bankrupt and leaving Montana taxpayers and the Bureau of Land Management to clean up the mess Pegasus left behind and treat the polluted water that comes out of those mines forever,” said Fort Belknap Councilman Warren Morin. “Anyone mining in Montana must abide by the law and must be fully accountable for any further harm.”
President Werk added, “Blue Arc has not shown that it is willing to comply with Montana law, and this could have very serious consequences for the Tribes including further water pollution and permanent environmental damage.”
“It’s extremely reckless for the State of Montana to issue a mining corporation an exploration permit that is right smack dab in the middle of a place where the Fort Belknap Indian Community and the federal government have put an incredible amount of time and money in trying to reclaim from past mining,” said Derf Johnson, staff attorney with the Montana Environmental Information Center, who attended the meeting.
“We are deeply concerned that Blue Arc could damage the extremely costly reclamation work that’s been completed at the former mine site,” said Bonnie Gestring, Northwest Program Director for Earthworks, who also participated in the meeting. “Tens of millions of public dollars have been spent to help fix the problems left by the last mining company, and we don’t want to see that work undone.”
The Fort Belknap Indian Community looks forward to further consultation with the Bureau Land Management and to monitoring the developments at the former Zortman and Landusky mines.