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March 21, Missoula, MT & Washington, DC — Yesterday the state of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality (MT DEQ) sent formal letters to Hecla Mining Company CEO and National Mining Association Chair Phillips Baker, notifying him that Hecla is in violation of the “Bad Actor” provision of the state’s Metal Mine Reclamation Act because Mr. Baker was a principal of bankrupt mining companies that have left Montana taxpayers liable for mine cleanup costs. Earthworks is part of a coalition represented by Earthjustice that requested Montana enforce the bad actor provision.

DEQ presents Hecla with two options:

  1. To compensate Montana taxpayers for past and future liabilities left by Mr. Baker’s previous companies of which he was a principal, or
  2. To cease mining operations in the state of Montana, including the Rock Creek and Montanore copper-silver mines proposed under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.

In response to MT DEQ action, Earthworks’ Northwest Program Director Bonnie Gestring and Policy Director Lauren Pagel issued the following statements:

“This decision is a victory for Montanans and taxpayers who unfairly shoulder the financial burden of mine cleanup. I applaud the state of Montana for taking a strong stand and enforcing the Bad Actor law, which says loud and clear: irresponsible mining companies don’t get to pocket Montana’s riches while the public is left with the costs. Designating Hecla CEO Phillips Baker a Bad Actor puts the brakes – at least temporarily — on state permits for the proposed Rock Creek and Montanore Mines that threaten the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.” — Bonnie Gestring, Northwest Program Director.

“Montana’s decision has national significance because Phillips Baker is the chairman of the National Mining Association, which leads the mining industry’s longtime advocacy to reduce or eliminate public and environmental input into mine permitting. Under the Trump administration, the NMA has supported Interior Secretary Zinke and EPA Administrator Pruitt’s policies that prioritize mining industry profits over clean water and communities. Montana’s decision should pause the headlong rush to eviscerate public and environmental oversight of mining.” — Lauren Pagel, Policy Director.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • MT DEQ letters to Phillips Baker and Hecla informing them of ‘Bad Actor’ determination
  • Background on threats Hecla’s mine proposals present to the Cabinets Mountains Wilderness
  • Earthjustice letter on behalf of Clark Fork Coalition, Earthworks, Montana Environmental Information Center, Rock Creek Alliance, Save Our Cabinets requesting enforcement of the “Bad Actor” provision of the state’s Metal Mine Reclamation Act

Alan Septoff, (202) 887-1872 x105, aseptoff@earthworksaction.org

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