Montana's state motto 'oro y plata' is still fitting

Published October 1, 1996  | October 1996 issue

Gold and silver-and more. Gold, which brought an influx of miners and others to Montana during the early 1860s, still accounts for about one-third of the state's mineral production. And while most gold goes into jewelry, use in computer hardware and telecommunications equipment has increased about 36 percent each year, according to the Montana Mining Association.

Montana is also a source for:
• silver—coins, jewelry and film for photography.
• molybdenum—steel manufacturing.
• platinum and palladium—used in catalytic converters to control emissions and pollutants from autos and jet engines.
• copper, lead and zinc—electric wire, building materials, steel sheeting and tubing and automobile batteries.

Mining today is largely capital-intensive, and, despite the 25 to 30 currently operating properties in the state, the industry employs only 3,500 directly, with another 4,000providing related goods and services. However, the industry produced nearly $135,000 of gross state product per worker in 1992, the highest industrial sector in the state, and that figure is projected to increase by almost $106,000 (in 1992 dollars) by 2010, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis figures. "Thus, this industry can increase net output and production with relatively little additional employment," writes Paul Polzin, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, in the spring issue of Montana Business Quarterly.

Montana metal mining in 1995

  • Miners in Montana spent $260 million annually on equipment, supplies and services.
  • $150 million in salaries were generated by mining.
  • $12 million in federal income taxes were paid by mining companies.

Source: Montana Mining Association