Published May 1, 2004 | May 2004 issue
Maybe cyanide leach mining has a future in the state, after all. Or not. A consulting firm funded by Canyon Resources Corp., a company that had planned to develop a large gold mine near Lincoln in the late 1990s, has started the process that would ask Montanans to reconsider a statewide ban on the practice. Environomics of Whitehall filed a draft initiative to legalize the use of cyanide in ore processing with the state Legislative Services Division in March—the first step toward placing the issue on the November ballot.
Canyon Resources has been fighting to repeal the ban since it was enacted by voters in 1998, arguing that it discourages investment in new gold and silver mines that would create jobs and yield tax revenue. Pointing to expensive, publicly funded cleanups at the C.R. Kendall and Zortman-Landusky mines, environmental groups counter that the cost of keeping cyanide out of streams and groundwater is too high. Environomics proposes environmental safeguards such as double-lined leach pads and leak-detection systems.