An Astronaut's View . . .
was taken from the Space Shuttle as it
passed over central Montana on July 8, 1989.
It shows the Missouri River as well as the
Little Rockies, a small mountain range
located 30 miles south of Harlem. Hays and
Lodgepole are located on the edge of the Little
Rockies. Also visible are the Zortman and
Landusky open-pit gold mines that were
owned and operated by Pegasus Gold, Inc.
from 1979 to 1998. The mines are located
just outside the southern edge of the Ft.
Belknap Indian Reservation. In fact, the mined
land used to be part of the reservation, but the
discovery of gold there in the 1800s prompted
the government to "renegotiate" the extent of
the reservation. If you examine of a map of the
reservation you will notice a curious "notch"
along Ft. Belknap's southern border.
Who owns the mess? . . .
Before a company begins to mine an area, it
is required to pay a "reclamation bond." With
the mines in the Little Rockies, Pegasus was
required to post a $30 million bond. Normally
the bond money is given back to the mining
company when they are finished mining and
the government is satisfied that the company
has restored the land. If the company leaves
without cleaning up the land, the government
uses the money to do the cleanup. This is
exactly what happened with the Zortman and
Landusky mines. Pegasus declared
bankruptcy in 1998, forfeited its $30 million
bond, and left the mess for the government to
Tribes are concerned . . .
A Billings engineering firm hired to oversee
the project has been using the bond money to
begin cleaning up the area. Unfortunately, the
$30 million will not be enough to do the job.
According to a recent Associated Press article,
the reclamation plan preferred by the
government will cost an estimated $63.5
million . . . over twice the amount provided by
the reclammation bond. So, unless Congress
or the state appropriates another $33.5
million, a less extensive cleanup plan will be
carried out. This development worries the
tribes of the Ft. Belknap Reservation who are
concerned that a high quality cleanup will not
be accomplished. As a result, the tribes filed
a lawsuit against the state last summer,
asking that the cheaper cleanup plan be
declared illegal under the state constitution
and environmental laws.
Source: Associated Press, "Officials:
Mine cleanup bond will be spent by end of the
year", The Independent Record,
January 17, 2003
Term: reclamation (do NOT use any form of the word "reclaim" in your definition)