Mine development offers opportunities
BY ROGER MORRIS Western News Publisher
The proposed Montanore Mine project south of Libby will generate a myriad of opportunities for local individuals and businesses.
"It is our intent to buy as many products in town and contract for as many services as possible in town," said Eric Klepfer, vice president of operations for Mines Management Inc. during the monthly luncheon meeting of the Libby Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
The Spokane-based company is proposing to develop a copper and silver mine about 15 miles south of Libby on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains.
Klepfer said opportunities will exist in contract services, supplies and outsourcing.
"We're a mining company and we know how to mill and mine," he said. "So we look for experts to contract services out."
In Elko, Nev., Klepfer said people started service and supply businesses that were local branches or representatives of bigger companies located elsewhere.
Those businesses provided mill and mine equipment and parts, lubricants, chemicals, bearings and belts, pipe, steel, electrical parts, small tools, vehicles and more.
"Our consumption rate is very, very high," Klepfer said. "It's a big number."
"Having suppliers in town has a big benefit to us so we don't have to order it," he continued. "The more we get in town, the better off we will be."
Initial job employment services will be contracted, as will payroll and internet services including web-hosting and maintenance, vehicle maintenance, fabrication, assay lab work, security, freight and trucking and road maintenance.
A mining construction company will be hired to begin work on the exploration adit, which Noranda Minerals of Canada had completed for more than three-quarters of the distance from the Libby Creek portal to the deposit deep underneath the Cabinet Mountains.
Construction is expected to take about two years and involve as many as 500 employees, with about 350 needed for the actual mining.
"There are a lot of people who live here and will be able to work on the construction," Klepfer said. "That will also be a good training ground for our miners."
Klepfer deflected a question of local housing needs for miners by saying the company expects to hire 80 percent of its employees from the existing population of the Libby and Troy areas.
"We're confident we can hire 80 percent of our people from here," he said.
Also, Mines Management is working with local governmental entities on social-economic impacts and the positives and negatives of the mine development, Klepfer said.
In response to questions about endangered species and environmental appeals, he said those are things that require Mines Management to be proactive.
"We have to figure out how to do both," Klepfer said. "It's not an either or. There is a way to do all of it if we go in with an open mind."
"We know somebody may bring a lawsuit to us but we're prepared and we're committed to this project," he said.
Klepfer reminded chamber members that the project was fully permitted once before and nothing in the latest proposal has been changed.
"The governor is behind this project because there are so few issues," he said.
For now the company wants to let the community know that business opportunities exist with the mine development.
"It is something we want to work on and convey that information to the local communities as to the business opportunities," Klepfer said. "This mine is proposed to run 15-20 years."