Montana Right Now: Bill introduced to help with clean up of abandoned hardrock mines

by Meredith Depping

A bipartisan bill to help Good Samaritans with the clean up and improvement of water quality around abandoned hardrock mines was introduced Thursday.

U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester introduced the bill Thursday.

Sen. Daines says the bill will help remove obstacles to abandoned mine clean-up in the state.

“Cutting burdensome red tape and shielding Good Samaritan organizations from liability will increase the pace and scale of reclamation and in turn, support rural Montana communities, create jobs and restore and enhance our environment,” Daines said.

Sen. Tester says that it is too often that abandoned mines are left untreated and left unclaimed.

“The metals and chemicals left behind by irresponsible mining companies have harmful effects on our pristine environment, and we should be helping the folks that are willing to step in and clean up,” Tester said. “Cutting red tape on the remediation of these mines will ensure that Montana remains the Last Best Place – keeping our outdoor economy strong, and creating good paying jobs in the process.”

According to a release, the “Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act” creates a pilot permitting program to enable not-for-profit cleanup efforts to move forward, while ensuring Good Samaritans have the skills and resources to comply with federal oversight. This pilot program is designed for lower risk projects which will improve water and soil quality or otherwise protect human health.

There are about 6,000 abandoned hardrock mines in Montana the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports.

The release goes on to say that liability and “bureaucratic red-tape” could leave Good Samaritans who would like to participate in reclamation legally liable for circumstances outside of their control, even if they had no involvement with the mine before cleaning it up.

At this time, the following agencies are supporting the legislation:

Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Property and Environment Research Center, National Deer Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Mining Association, American Exploration and Mining Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Izaak Walton League of America, and the Outdoor Alliance.