Mining was a driving force behind Montana’s first hundred years and remains an important economic sector in Montana, providing well-paying jobs with a full complement of benefits, paying significant taxes to all levels of government, purchasing goods and services throughout the state and positively engaging and supporting local communities.
Montana has a regulatory structure around mining that protects both environmental values and human values. In the past 30 years alone, 35 new state and federal laws have been passed to make mining one of the most regulated industries in Montana. These regulations have been put in place to assure that a large scale mineral developer is a good corporate citizen before, during, and after the development of a mine.
Thinking globally about society’s need for materials, and the nine to eleven billion people that will be on earth in the next several decades, Montana undoubtedly contains the raw resources that can continue to fuel the economic engine in our state.
Predictability and Certainty
Montana took some important steps in providing necessary permitting certainty with its passage of legislation that modifies the means of permitting mining projects in a way that offers some predictability, some stability and some assurance that they can get through the process in a timely manner.
Mining continues to enjoy good metal prices which enable the industry to make significant contributions to the state and local budgets and allows operators to keep employment numbers up and in many cases increasing.
High commodity prices could lead to an increased interest in Montana’s abundant mineral deposits and the industry is hopeful that the state will see a renaissance of exploration in Montana.
Montana’s mining partners are as focused as ever on working within the communities and surrounding areas of operating properties to address long-term economic sustainability. Mining has played, and will continue to play, a significant role in Montana’s economy but we share our neighbors concerns about economic dependence and cyclical metal prices. Companies are working with local governments and communities on diversification, attraction, and growth of other businesses and industries that can compliment mining and will continue to assist neighbors in looking for opportunities to stimulate sustainable growth during downturns and beyond mine closure.
Global Financial Problems
Recovery from the financial crisis has created uncertainty around the globe and Montana is no different though it has weathered the storm a bit better than some. While enjoying high commodity prices especially for metals, the scarcity of venture capital has slowed the return of exploration companies. The industrial mineral operations have seen capital investments delayed or reduced as the state waits out the recovery of the housing/construction industry. Company profits have not been as high as some might expect as costs have raised steadily for energy, steel, equipment, etc.
We know that good business ideas require investor confidence in the total business environment where a project is located. And just as companies compete for the best talent, governments around the world compete to attract business investments. Montana’s ability to compete in a global market has a perception and image problem when it comes to investor confidence. Whether the perception is accurate, real or perceived matters little. The Montana Mining Association, working in conjunction with elected leaders, policy makers, and regulators, will continue its efforts to ensure a predictable and competent permitting process and will continue to do what it can to enhance Montana’s reputation as a safe, secure, and welcoming environment in which to conduct business.
The MMA will continue to monitor and proactively ensure the ability of Montana’s mining sector to access necessary water resources to conduct its exploration and operations. Montana has perhaps the most stringent regulations in the nation regarding all aspects of water be it water rights, quantity, beneficial use or maintaining high quality water standards. Current and future operations must have lawful access to water and the right to put water to a beneficial use without eroding any other private and important water right or usage.
The MMA supports strong and effective water quality standards that properly protect Montana’s water quality. All standards must be technologically achievable today, should allow for the use of Best Management Practices, should protect beneficial uses, and must acknowledge natural conditions.
Infrastructure and Access
Mining must be assured of its lawful access to orebodies for exploration and development, including the ability to build and obtain the necessary infrastructure for the various phases of development including water conveyance, roads, and energy requirements.