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County opposes stricter mine water treament proposal

| January 5, 2006 11:00 PM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter

The Lincoln County Commissioners are registering their opposition to a proposed change in mining regulations that would prohibit permits for new mines if water treatment is required after reclamation work is finished.

The new rule is under consideration by the Montana Board of Environmental Review, which has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Jan. 10 in Boulder. Following a meeting on Wednesday with Doug Miller, manager of the Genesis copper and silver mine at Troy, Commissioner John Konzen agreed to attend the hearing to speak on behalf of Lincoln County government. Miller said the Montana Mining Association plans to line up five county commissioners from around the state along with five state legislators to attend the hearing to speak against the rule change.

The commissioners sent a letter opposing the new rule to the Board of Environmental Review in December. In the letter, the commissioners argued that the change is not needed and that long-term water treatment should remain available as an option to be considered during the permitting process. Decisions should be made based on the specifics of the site and not under a "one size fits all" approach, the commissioners wrote.

The commissioners noted in the letter that two major mining projects are planned for the Lincoln County area and could bring significant positive economic impacts to both the county and the state.

During Wednesday's meeting with Miller, Konzen said he thinks a rule change such as the one under consideration should be considered by the state Legislature, where the public would have ample opportunity for input, rather than by the Board of Environmental Review.

"I think the thing that bothers me is that a board like this has this kind of power," he said.