Northern Plains celebrates its landmark agreement with Montana’s Stillwater and East Boulder mines to protect water, safety, and other community concerns.
These two articles were adapted from Northern Plains newsletter The Plains Truth.
In May of this year, the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) celebrated its 20th Anniversary! For 20 years, members of Northern Plains, Cottonwood Resource Council, and Stillwater Protective Association have been diligent in upholding and even expanding the terms of this historic contract with the Stillwater and East Boulder Mines.
The Agreement guarantees a seat at the table for local residents to work with the mine on issues including water quality, tailings safety, traffic, and any other community concerns that arise. As some members will tell you, signing the Agreement was just the beginning – the implementation is an ongoing process that continues to require the time and attention of our members.
“The Good Neighbor Agreement has had real on-the-ground influence on protecting pristine water quality, reducing mine-related traffic, controlling mine-related housing, and ensuring citizen participation in permit applications. All this and no lawsuits for 20 years!”-Jerry Iverson, GNA Task Force Chair, East Boulder Oversight Committee member
Thank you to all of the members who were part of the original negotiating team, who have sat on the Oversight and Technology Committees throughout the years, and to the membership of Cottonwood Resource Council and Stillwater Protective Association for your continued support of the Good Neighbor Agreement.
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Adaptive Management Plans improve groundwater protection for Stillwater and East Boulder Mines
After four years, the Water Quality Adaptive Management Plans (AMP) for the Stillwater and East Boulder Mines have officially been approved. The Stillwater and East Boulder Oversight Committees have been working over these years to create and implement a water program that is both proactive and precautionary. The goal is to detect and respond to water quality changes at the earliest possible time.
The GNA has required a surface water program since its inception in 2000. At its core, the main accomplishment of the AMP is that it extends the existing surface water program to groundwater, allowing us to detect water quality changes long before the contaminants reach the river.
“A dark legacy of the mining industry is the cost of post-closure reclamation that is borne by the government and its citizens. The GNA enables the local community to participate in the five-year review of Stillwater Mine’s Reclamation Plan and Assurance Bond to ensure that future generations will not be burdened with reclamation costs. Adequate funding gives us the means to restore these landscapes as closely as possible to their natural state.”-Van Wood, SPA President, Stillwater Oversight Committee member
The AMP is based on a Tiered Trigger-Level Framework (TTLF), which requires the mine to take defined actions if water quality changes – if concentrations of certain parameters increase, the mine is required to take more remedial action.
The other thing the AMP does is create three “rings” of groundwater wells. There are operational, intermediate, and permit boundary groundwater monitoring wells. There are two wells directly below the tailings facility – these are the operational wells. Farther downstream are the intermediate wells, and farthest downstream are the permit boundary wells.
This ringed system allows us to detect any contaminants as soon as they enter the groundwater and to monitor whether those contaminants are moving toward the river.
The AMPs are a huge accomplishment for our Good Neighbor Agreement Task Force, and they get us closer to reaching one of the original objectives of the GNA – to maintain baseline water quality. Thank you to all of the members who have sat through years of meetings and spent countless hours making this happen!
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