HELENA — Montana voters strongly support the state's current ban on open pit cyanide leach mining for gold and silver, a Gazette State Poll shows.
The poll found 64 percent of Montanans want to retain the voter-passed ban, while 21 percent want it repealed. Fifteen percent were undecided. More women than men — 69 percent to 59 percent — support the current ban.
Montanans in 1998, by a 52 percent to 48 percent vote, approved Initiative 137 to impose the ban, aimed at stopping a controversial proposed gold mine around Lincoln, near the headwaters of the Blackfoot River.
A failed effort During the 2003 Legislature, Sen. Debbie Shea, D-Butte, led a failed effort to have Montanans vote in 2004 on the ban on open pit cyanide leach mining for gold and silver. After considerable opposition, she dropped the idea. Canyon Resources, the Colorado mining company that planned to build the Lincoln mine, said it would lead an initiative campaign to put the issue on the ballot next year.
The poll also asked about another voter-enacted initiative subject of legislative debates. Initiative 143, which voters approved in 2000 by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin, banned new game farms and placed strict limits on existing game farm operations. Game farm operators have filed lawsuits against the state, saying their property rights have been violated.
No action taken The 2003 Legislature discussed repealing the ban or having the state buy some of the game farms, but in the end, nothing happened.
Montanans were relatively evenly divided on the issue. The poll showed 44 percent oppose making game farms legal, while 40 percent support it, and 16 percent undecided on the issue.
Men and woman are of like mind on game farms, with 40 percent of men and 40 percent of women supporting the legalization of game farms. Of those polled, 46 percent of women and 42 percent of men opposed.
The poll, taken by telephone May 16-19 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C., surveyed 625 Montana registered voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.