Those who work in the mining industry know that mining and protecting the environment arenít mutually exclusive. With some of the worldís strictest regulations when it comes to protecting our water, Montana has been able to successfully strike a balance between developing our abundance of mineral resources and preserving the high quality of our rivers and streams to provide some of the best fishing opportunities in the world.
And Montanans have realized the benefits from both.
We have a strong mining industry that provides thousands of good paying jobs, many of which are in smaller towns and rural communities with few, if any, opportunities in other industries for those workers and their families, and a thriving outdoor recreation economy ó all thanks to the regulatory balance that we have worked hard to create.
But I-186, a misleading ballot initiative pushed by out-of-state environmental activists, threatens the careful balance that Montana has achieved. By inserting confusing, ill-defined, and in some instances, completely undefined language into Montanaís existing mining regulations, I-186 would not only upend the balance between mining and protecting our environment but will block future mining projects by setting an unattainable regulatory standard ó all at the expense of everyday Montanans.
Montanaís existing regulatory requirements ensure that mining companies provide adequate remedies for the protection of the environmental life support system and to prevent the pollution of air or water and the degradation of adjacent lands. While proponents are using scare tactics to mislead Montanans into voting for I-186, the truth of the matter is that no mine in Montana can discharge polluted water under our existing laws. I-186 will bring years, if not decades, in court fending off challenges to new or existing mines and regardless of DEQ decisions on the front end.
The mining industry, the jobs it creates, and the revenue it generates, enables thousands of Montanans to live in this great state and continue to enjoy our world class fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities. But by preventing new mines from being permitted, I-186 will make it harder for the over 12,000 Montanans who depend on our mining industry to live, work, and recreate in our state.
According to a recent study by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the average mining job pays $86,030 per year ó which far exceeds the state median income of $50,027. It is these good-paying, reliable, mining jobs that allow everyday Montanans to make a living here and it is these jobs that I-186 will prevent.
Mining currently generates over $2.7 billion of economic output annually in our state and proposed projects could add another $450 million to Montanaís annual economic output and generate $35 million in new tax revenue. If I-186 is passed, proposed mining projects will not be able to move forward and Montanans that may have otherwise been able to build a life in our state and contribute to our economy will be forced to look elsewhere.
Mining has, and continues to be, a driving force in our economy and supports the livelihoods of many who are lucky enough to call Montana home. Vote No on I-186 to protect balance between mining and the environment that we have worked hard to create here in Montana.
Rex Rogers is co-chair of the Montana Union Sportsmenís Alliance.