Since its founding in 1942, the United Steelworkers has worked together to ensure safer workplaces, better wages and brighter futures for our children. We fight every day for good jobs and a clean environment because we know that we do not have to choose one over the other.
This fight continues today. Montana communities have been built on products Steelworkers make and the elements we mine. But our communities are under attack now as groups work to advance an anti-mining agenda with the upcoming Ballot Initiative 186.
The Montana Legislative Services has already declared that this ballot initiative has several ambiguous sections and undefined or ill-defined terms and contains conflicting legal standards that would lead to litigation and prevent mining.
Mining today is not the dirty and destructive process of decades ago. The proponents of I-186 ignore the fact that Montana already has some of the world’s strictest environmental protections when it comes to mine permits. In the past 30 years, 35 new state and federal laws have been enacted to ensure that mining companies operate responsibly.
Steelworkers know about safe and responsible hard rock mine operations. Our members at the Sibanya-Stillwater mine helped to develop a Good Neighbor Agreement with the mine operator and the community to ensure that the mine provides economic benefit while protecting the surrounding land and water.
If passed, I-186 will have serious repercussions for the future of Montana’s mining industry and its communities.
The economic impact of the Montana mining industry reaches across the state. According to a study conducted by the University of Montana, mining employs some 12,300 workers and generates nearly $200 million in annual revenue for state and local governments. These vital funds support education and local infrastructure and provide critical public safety resources.
According to the study, “if three mines currently under consideration — the Rock Creek, Montanore and Black Butte mines — were to be successfully developed and operated, the economy would stand to gain more than 3,000 jobs and $450 million per year in revenue.”
If I-186 were to pass, these jobs and this economic potential would disappear.
Montana working families and our communities cannot afford I-186. That is why I urge all Montana voters to stand with the United Steelworkers and vote No on I-186. By standing together, we can ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren.
Emil Ramirez is the District 11 Director of the United Steelworkers, which includes the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.