I am a fifth-generation Montanan raised on my great-great-grandpa Shaw’s family ranch located in Cardwell, Montana at the confluence of the Jefferson and Boulder rivers. I have lived here all my life, having built my own family home on a part of the ranch in 1990. My wife and I have raised our three daughters here.
My family and I are fully supporting I-186 for responsible mining in Montana. We already are living with the negative impacts of water and air pollution. Our home is located 1 mile southeast of the Golden Sunlight Mine. Our home and family are now threatened by conditions that we firmly believe to be originating from the Golden Sunlight Mine. We don’t believe that the current laws and regulatory enforcement provide enough protection for the environment and the people who live in proximity of the mining operations.
The mine, since its inception, has bought out 6 of our neighboring property owners. The reasons for the mine buying the properties has never been made public. One can only wonder why the mine would purchase these properties. What we do know is that our drinking water well, once a good-quality water supply, is now polluted. Well tests have shown the water has become acidic and laden with metals and other compounds. We believe this is due to acid drainage from the mine operation. We have tried to get help from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) but have not been successful. MDEQ issued a report that stated our water pH is the issue but that there is no evidence of similar problems anywhere else in the area. We followed up by obtaining the monitoring well data from the mine’s annual reports by filing a freedom of information act request with MDEQ. The annual reports show there are numerous monitoring sites on the mine site that have extremely acidic water.
We also are in the path of dust storms that originate from the gold mine’s tailings impoundment. We have photographed and videoed dust storms coming from the mine and contacted MDEQ requesting information on what is in the airborne tailings and what, if any, public health concerns are associated with the windblown tailings. MDEQ responded that they do not know what is in the airborne tailings and did not respond to our health concerns.
We clearly understand that I-186 does not affect the existing Golden Sunlight mine or future expansions of the mine. However, we thought it was important to go on record and publicly support the initiative. Dave Galt, Executive Director of STOP 1-186 said “don’t fix what isn’t broken” in a recent opinion. Galt’s position doesn’t reflect our reality in Cardwell, Montana.
We are not anti-mining. We are pro-mining, but only if the mining is done responsibly and in a way that protects the environment. Responsible mining will benefit people by preventing situations like my family is facing. Responsible mining will also protect the taxpayers of Montana by assuring we will no longer have to bear the cost for the longterm clean up and water treatment of mine sites as we are seeing at the Zortman Landusky mine and other mine sites.
We urge you to support I-186. Mining can be an important part of the Montana economy, but it must be done in a responsible manner. I-186 will go a long way to assuring that happens.