Department of Environmental Quality officials filed suit this week asking a judge to bar Hecla Mining Co. CEO Phillips S. Baker Jr. from opening any new mines in the state under Montana’s “bad actor” law. Baker was chief financial officer of Pegasus Mining when the firm filed for bankruptcy, leaving the state with tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs. Hecla has proposed opening a pair mines in the northwestern corner of the state near the Idaho border.
Montana’s status as a colony to be exploited by out-of-state mining companies must be erased. Tourism and high-tech industries are supplanting extractive industries as the state’s main economic drivers. The days when mining companies permanently deface landscapes and walk away must end.